“What you don’t know won’t hurt you.”
Is it just me, or is that quite possibly the most ignorant idiom ever invented? And speaking of… “Ignorance is bliss?”
What is that????
Calling all runners, both weekend and warrior alike.
Unfortunate News Flash: the human body was not designed for long distance running. Due to an array of biomechanical and neurological contributions, our physiology simply doesn’t allow for it. Nonetheless, it is to my belief that we (humans) view running as the Ultimate Challenge. There’s just something about it that makes a person feel empowered, accomplished, in a “I do it and you don’t so that makes me a better person than you” sort of way. Just take a look around you; people are running everywhere. And not because a convicted criminal is chasing them. No, they’re running because they want to. Because they feel like it. In fact, it seems as though runners today now consider themselves of a different species, in their own, brilliantly devised world, a world that gathers on Wednesdays to run 15 miles whilst simultaneously double fisting Michelob Ultra. Because they both go so well together?
I concur, however, that it all comes down to the hypothesis (yes, my hypothesis) that certain individuals merely don’t see fit to limit themselves to a life comprised of things we were designed for. Because where’s the fun in that? Yes, I get it. But here’s my question for you: Where’s the health in that?
As a once upon a time runner, I can intimately relate to this way of thinking. I started off as the youth appealed runner who begged my mom to put me on the 5 yrs. & up Cross Country team solely as a therapeutic outlet to beat the cootie deranged boys who wiped their boogers on my shirt in class. Then, I beat those boys and joined the high school team. You know, the-confused-about-their-purpose-in-life adult adolescents who choose pain over pleasure. And yet it seemed, incidentally, the more pain I longed the capability to endure, the better runner I became.
Enter collegiate running.
Collegiate level distance running takes a special kind of person. And by special, I mean crazy. Like really crazy. I’m referring to the like-minded individuals who willingly sacrifice parties, tailgates, relationships, and grades for miles and miles (and miles) of pre-disposed, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I can’t breathe, I might be dying, pain. And leave it to said pain stricken individual to actually brag about all of the awesome, radical, running induced suffering they endure to the ones who ARE attending the party filled tailgates, sustaining relationships, and legitimately focusing on their life-long, future career as an adult.
Suffice it to say, as my “I can handle pain so I am way more awesome than you” mindset slowly wore off, and the physical detriments steadily heightened, my take on life (and by life, I’m obviously referring to running) quickly and forcefully altered.
It soon became evident that any “normalcy” I may have previously maintained was quickly vanishing and that this so called triumphant “pain” was quite possibly the sounding reason for it. And then I had a thought. Maybe I’m not cool after all, and I’m actually just crazy?
You see, cultural "paradigms" or ideologies are so convenient that people often don't bother to doubt them, and they are sometimes so rigorously enforced that individuals quickly yet subtly learn to keep their doubts to themselves.
In other words, just because you read and hear and see that running “is so good for you and will make you like the coolest, skinniest person ever!!!!” doesn’t necessarily make it true. Or real. OR scientifically based.
And here’s why.
In the midst of a sedentary public, the medical persona now prescribe exercise as a remedy for the “unhealthy.” However, the excessive need to take matters to the extreme remains an attribute for some. In which case, it would be wise to remember that more is not always better. And that running may be a bit overrated.
Exercise, of any form, remains only as beneficial as our physiology and structural stability allows it to be. Unfortunately, most of our physiologies and structural makeup are less than stellar, i.e. metabolic imbalance, poor thyroid function, blood sugar impairment, inadequate sleep patterns, postural distortion, respiratory discrepancies, estrogen overload, degeneration, disc pathologies; the list goes on. Once the body shifts into an aerobic state; our system releases the leading steroid hormone, cortisol, in a purposefully facilitated attempt to regulate the stress imposed upon it.
Parenthetically, as functional beings, our physiology engineers a brilliantly schemed pattern of facilitation. First we adapt, then we compensate, followed by a period of de-compensation, which inevitably opens the gateway for pain and dysfunction. There lies a structural strategy executed by our biomechanics’ adaptive behavior to invariably manipulate a way to move and function with comfort and ease. However, the problem arises when that adaptive pattern begins to outlive its usefulness.
Increased endurance activity, such as accomplished by mileage running, adds increased stress in the form of excess physical activity that the body actually regards as trauma. When any type of physical trauma takes place; our structural makeup begins to compensate via a protective manner in a desperate attempt to maintain a state of homeostasis, or rather a state of balance, by sensing a neuro-musculoskeletal issue and acting accordingly. However, that action, or rather re-active compensation, leads to physiological abnormalities, misalignments and instabilities, thus further enhancing the problem.
Wolfe’s Law, a law according to biological systems (hard and soft tissues), adequately states that the body adapts to habitual position, which induces muscular or skeletal changes and becomes distorted in direct correlation to the amount of stress imposed on them.
Running forces the body to maintain a fixed, anatomical position that, if enabled to an immoderate extent while lacking proper opposing mechanics and protective upkeep, eventually becomes habitual. Distance running furthermore enhances this “habitual position.”
Alas, what is the point, right? Am I sitting here trying to tell you not to run? Am I calling you “unhealthy” and/or crazy for choosing a life composed of miles and miles of rapidly putting one foot in front of the other? Of course not. In fact, run your little hearts out. For no other reason than I want you to do what makes you happy. And because I wouldn’t take back my running background for anything in the world. In the end, I learned a lot, traveled, had the time of my life, and ultimately became the person I am today. The racing part of it even fed my extreme competitive nature. But mostly, I don’t regret my decision to run because that unrealistic “I’m better than you are” attitude was quite fulfilling while it lasted.
I am also not going to tell you to stop running because I am not that kind of Practitioner. However, I do of course promote “health” in the most physiologically-fit aspect of the word. Thus, I will attempt to administer a plan that will seemingly fulfill your running fantasy, but also keep you within the realms of safety. And health.
I will educate you on how to conduct running in the upmost correct, biomechanical, structurally-sound, intelligent way. I will foster the rendering of a stable physiology prior to all of the running. I will explain to you that the amount of mileage should be matched with increased protective maintenance in the form of opposing movement, mechanics and REST via corrective exercise and stretching, joint mobilizations, spinal manipulations, breathing techniques, tissue work, nutrition protocols, and more. If the running increases, all other maintenance agendas should ideally increase as well solely for the purpose of removing the body’s instinctive need to compensate.
You know, just so that all of your running induced pain can fly out the window along side of your pre-determined, blissful ignorance.
Because what you don’t know just might actually end up hurting you.