Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Born to Run. Really?

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never SeenYou could have had me fooled! With 5 knee surgeries under my belt by age 26, running is the farthest thing that I feel "born to do". Which is precisely why I devoured the book Born To Run by Christopher McDougall when my friend Austen shared it with me. I'll admit, I was pretty leery on the concept that humans were made to run. Don't get me wrong, I was an avid runner in college easily logging 30-40 miles per week and successfully completing both the OKC and Austin half marathons (best time 1:42) and walking the OKC marathon (time 5:48). However, like most of you, I joined the ranks of the injured and abused. With my 5th knee surgery on the horizon in 2009,  I sweetly kissed running goodbye (or so I thought).

In his book McDougall, explains, "Every year anywhere from 65 to 80 percent of all runners suffer an injury. That's nearly every runner, every single year. No matter who you are, no matter how you run, your odds of getting hurt are the same. " That's encouraging right?

Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a professor at Harvard University answers, "A lot of foot and knee injuries that are currently plaguing us are actually caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate, give us knee problems. Until 1972, when the modern athletic shoe was invented by Nike, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet, and had much lower incidence of knee injuries." So, running shoe companies are to blame?

McDougall takes a close look at the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, who can run hundreds of miles without rest and enjoy it, as well as some of the elite ultra marathoners in the country in order to extract the secrets of being Born To Run. He ultimately comes up with three painful truths:
  1. The Best Shoes Are The Worst - "Runners wearing top-of-the-line shoes are 123% more likely to get injured than runners in cheap shoes, according to a study led by Bernard Marti, M.D." The Tarahumara run hundreds of miles through the canyons in thin flimsy leather sandals.
  2. Feet like a Good Beating - "In the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, Dr. Bates and colleagues reported that as shoes wore down and their cushioning thinned, runners gained more foot control." In essence your feet respond to what you put em in. More cushion = more pounding = more injuries. Less cushion = less pounding (your foot compensates) = less injuries. 
  3. Human Beings Are Designed To Run Without Shoes - "Putting your feet in shoes is similar to putting them in a plaster cast, says Dr. Hartmann, Ph.D (trainer for the world's finest distance runners).  If I put your leg in plaster, we'll find 40-60% atrophy of the musculature within 6 weeks. Something similar happens to your feet when they're encased in shoes." Feet live for a  fight and thrive under pressure; let them laze around, and they'll collapse. Work them out and they'll arc up like a rainbow. 
So what's the answer for those of us who's tender feet can't handle tip-toeing over pebbles on the beach? Vibram Five Fingers! I just got my new pair in last night and have been wearing them around all day!

These little beauties are my new hope to burst back into the running scene (as soon as the Dr. gives me the green light). I am going to test them out this summer during my mission trip at the camp I'll be working at. For the first time traveling I will not be packing my bulky running shoes, whoo hoo! These shoes are super versatile for all types of sports and should be the perfect match for my active lifestyle!

All in all, the theory that God made us with all we need to run just makes sense to me. All we have to do is look at the elegant, fit, happy Tarahumara to see that foam and gel and lots of cush aren't the keys - if they were why do we still get injured??? Give this book a read, try em out and let me know what you think! Time to fly...

Tomorrow I'll review the Tarahumara diet and the eating secrets they hold to staying healthy!



AustenTX said...

love it! love it! love it! The VFF KSO's are hot, thanks for the blog reference creds. I'm very happy that you put this review out here, spread the BF gospel!

Evan Weatherford said...

Those are the most ridiculous looking things I've seen in a long time...

BUT I've heard great things, and I too have had multiple knee injuries. Let me know how they work out for you.

5th Belle Avenue said...

Hahaha, ooohhh goodness, I have definitely heard good things about them - just wish they were a little more, um, less freaky looking. YOU, however, can pull it off. ;o) LOVE YOU!

Michelle said...

Austen -No prob! I love sharing knowledge that helps people live better!

Evan - Yes they are ridiculous looking, but actually grow on ya and you come to find them attractive (think Dr. Martins, lol).

Annabelle - Haha...thanks for the confidence booster. I'm making them look good, hehe.

Let you all know how they do over the next month!

Jen said...

I just can't help but wonder if some of the stats are a little off... I mean, if you think about it, runners who are serious runners and really run A TON are the ones who get the top-of-the-line shoes. So, of course you're prone to more injury if you're actually running more. Less serious runners tend to buy the cheap running shoes because they don't know any better and aren't really running a ton anyway. So, of course they're not as prone to injury. Does the book talk about that side of the argument at all?

Lastly, I can't WAIT to hear what the people in Turkey (that's where you're going on your mission trip, right?) think of your new shoes. Might strike up some interesting conversations or they may be a little scared. :) haha

P.S. You should start reviewing books for a living. You're so good at it!

Michelle said...

Jen, love your thoughts. The study that this came from analyzed 4,358 runners from all levels who filled out an extensive questionnaire detailing their training habits and footwear over the previous year. Apparently, the most common variable among the casualties wasn't training surface, running speed, WEEKLY MILEAGE, competitive training motivation, body weight or history of previous injury; it was the price of the shoe. (so yes they did take your pt into consideration).

Also, if you look at the Tarahumara who run more miles a day/week than the elite ultra runners in the US (who wear expensive shoes)they have ridiculously low injury occurrence (and they run in sandals)! Crazy!

And i still can't buck the logic that over the past 25 years there has been so much technology to perfect shoes to protect us, but injury rates are INCREASING. And according to the British Journal of sports Medicine, there's no evidence-based studies that demonstrate that running shoes make you less prone to injury...

Yes, I'm sure the people in Turkey will look at me like the Taharumara looked at Barefoot Ted (he wore them to the canyons)! I'll be sure to keep you posted!

Finally, it's funny you mention book reviewing as a career...that same thought crossed my mind yesterday - not bc I'm good, but bc I truly enjoy synthesizing large amounts of info into bite-sized bits...and sharing good finds. Thanks for the encouragement! :)

Trahpilnov said...

those vibram babies are even more awesome than you led me to believe.

Did the book talk about ankle support? The foot may strengthen and arch with more use of those small muscles, but the tendons and ligaments in ankles (and joints in general) are another thing. Maybe those toe breathers combined with a Russian foot wrap would do the trick. I'm still wearing my boots for now.

Glad to see that, upon a brief perusal of your blog, you really enjoyed your time in Turkey and Greece.

Never stop wondering what's beyond that next ridge.

-Nick von Liphart