Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Case for Avoiding Pavement of any Kind!!

Combining variety in your running surfaces with barefoot or primal running seems to be a great combination!!  Allowing your feet to be strengthened by removing all support and improving your form by removing all cushion will give you more of a full body work out than you would think could come from running.  One advantage to running in MN in the winter is you can run on snow.  My most recent run was 6.5 miles and about 2/3rds of it was in 4-6" of snow along side of the asphalt trail.  It really slowed my pace, but I did feel it was much more of a full body workout.  The key is to completely relax your body and let your feet speak to you.  I was wearing my Feelmax Kuuvas and the flexible minimalist bottom allows me to sense the ground under me and as my foot lands, by whole body automatically adjusts accordingly.  I have found that if I am not relaxed, my back muscles in particular get really sore.   As Ken Bob Saxton says "RELAX, RELAX, RELAX!"

The following is an excerpt from Always Running the Same Way - The trouble with running on concrete and asphalt by Paul Ingraham, RMT

The body is an all-terrain vehicle. We cannot run on concrete for long without consequences. In the case of running, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get away with it! Although most runners believe that the rigidity of concrete is the main problem, it may be that the continuity of the surface is just as bad or worse.

Lack of variety in running surface

Unfortunately, most recreational runners are running on sidewalks. Any sunny morning, you can see hundreds of them on the seawall in downtown Vancouver. They never touch the grass or the sand. They have succumbed to the illusion that a hard, constant surface is the path of least resistance. But on an unvarying surface, your body is subjected to exactly the same forces with every strike of the foot. Not only is the stress of impact exaggerated by the hard surface, but it is also repeated excessively because the mechanics of every step are exactly the same.

Worse still, the body is given no chance to adapt to other stresses. At best, same-surface and hard-surface runners become strong in one way, but weak in all the others — and therefore vulnerable to injury.

The solution to most running problems is to get off the concrete.

A classic runner’s injury, for instance, is a kind of tendinitis called iliotibial band syndrome. It is caused by muscle imbalance, by a relative weakness of the gluteus maximus and minimus. These muscles are lateral stabilizers; they control side-to-side movement of the hips. On a flat surface, they aren’t needed much — it’s easy to stay upright on a flat surface. They don’t exactly atrophy, but the other leg muscles get disproportionately stronger. When you see people running sideways, this is partly what they are trying to prevent. It’s a good idea, but it’s futile unless they do at least half the run that way.

The alternatives to running on hard, even surfaces

The solution to most running problems is to get off the concrete. Even trail running (chip trails and other groomed trails) is not adequate — it may be soft, but it is still same-surface running. We have evolved miraculously complex reflexes and musculature that can keep us upright on virtually any surface, even shifting surfaces like the deck of a ship. To develop and maintain a well-rounded fitness, all of those reflexes and musculature need to be constantly stimulated and challenged!

Ideally, everyone should do true trail running, or cross-country running. Your run should be on soft, constantly changing and unstable surfaces. For instance, I live in downtown Vancouver, which is runner’s Heaven: miles of scenic seawall running. The seawall itself is paved. But for most of its length, you can stay off of it, and run on beaches or grass, hop over logs and benches, go up and down hills, scramble over rocks. This is perfect!

The sidewalk is not your path: everything else is.

Alas, most people don’t have the option of running on the beach. The solution is what I call “urban cross-country.” The key to urban cross-country is creativity: do anything you can to vary your running surface, and to get off the concrete every chance you get. Put parks on your route whenever possible. If it’s a small one, run around it on the grass five times before continuing. No park? Run on people’s lawns! The sidewalk is not your path: everything else is. Look for stairs and steep hills, and put them in your route. Run with one foot on the curb and one foot off for a block.

Author's Original Post with Footnotes:
Research Article on Natural Surface Running

1 comment:

rebecca said...

Great blog! I agree with this - there is nothing worse when barefooting to just staying on the sidewalk! I love running on grass and sand as you can really feel the muscles in your feet working and overall its much kinder to your feet!