Updated: Jul 7, 2020
Running has become the biggest symbol of defiance against the pandemic; the go-to cardio workout of the lockdown. I’ve spent years treating marathon runners and now I’m helping those who’ve found time to get into shape.
Running is excellent for your heart, and there’s no shortage of evidence outlining the many benefits a decent session can bring you. The most intense - and most elusive - is the hormone release from physical exertion, designed to promote wellbeing and happiness. These are called endorphins, and for centuries served as a stimulatory mechanism to reward hard physical work.
We've moved away from a largely agrarian society in the West, so hunter-gathering isn’t such a big thing these days, but endorphins are still triggered. These create the ‘runner’s high’, an enormous sense of wellbeing that comes with the added bonus of a natural analgesic effect. In fact, one of the hardest things to do is convince injured clients to give up running and allow time to heal – that endorphin rush is so addictive, so powerful that you often have to use every ounce of persuasion to get them to realise it’s a short timeout to allow them to return to the zone.
Though it’s not as easy to do these days, one of my favourite pastimes is to walk through Greenwich Park. I love watching the different runners and joggers, comparing stride gait styles and stride times, and seeing London jog, shuffle and blitz across one of the loveliest open spaces of the city.
As a clinician, it’s great practice to determine which muscle compartments are working well: the runners who are are too tight in the lower leg, those with strained Achilles tendons or pelvic tilts and even if the runner has hypermobility. In this way, I build up thousands of profiles of running styles with shoe combinations until I can spot a seasoned runner from a struggling newbie. In the way an experienced cyclist can immediately tell if the person in front is in the wrong gear, I can see if someone’s been paying attention to their craft or will soon be making an appointment with me!
For many of my clients who are going from the couch to the road, I would always recommend starting with fast paced walking sessions. Fast just means faster than normal and for a little longer, to build up stamina and get your tendons and muscles used to the increased strain. When you walk, each foot briefly carries your entire body load; when you run, the impact can be over three-and-half times that. Imagine that travelling in straight line, down through your legs to your heel – all that force on a bony surface the size of a golf ball. Then that force is transferred to lots of smaller flatter bones and these are the ones that propel you back up as you transfer your weight across to continue the process.
So next time you think about taking up running, go easy and look at how delicate your feet really are inside. When you’re ready to get running, we’ll discuss shoes in another post.