I think the sport of running is over-complicated and over analysed almost to the point of ridiculousness. What’s wrong with just putting on your shoes, heading out the door and putting one foot in front of another.
And I’m not alone in thinking this. Damian Thacker a physio from Sheffield has done a short blog on this topic and is prepared to put his body where his mouth is to prove just how running doesn’t need fancy gadgets or equipment, and so without further ado, it’s over to Damo!
As a physiotherapist, I see a significant number of runners who have had injuries in the past or who now experience persistent running-related pain. I also encounter many myths about running injuries and technique.
Perversely these concepts alone can generate unnecessary fear and apprehension and can become prominent barriers to people getting better. Along with a lack of variety in training and rigid lifestyles, a loss of vitality can occur, sometimes ending up with the perpetual state of persistent pain and a disconnect from what we love to do, just run.
As our foot strikes the ground beneath us there is obviously a physical connection; however, interruption, disbelief or over-attention to this part of the activity can lead to a lack of harmony. Hence running becomes less seamless and over complicated. The actual capability of the foot to adapt to a chosen surface, to me, is beautiful and far more accommodating and resilient than most believe.
Structuralism, the belief that pain and injury are solely due to a fault with anatomical structure and resulting from a biomechanical cause, underpins most of what is thought about running rehabilitation. Common assessment and management of running-related pain is generally too linear, one-dimensional and focused on corrections. Consequently, people often reduce their running frequency, withdraw from variety, become hyper-vigilant and less adaptable, all of which can lead to fragility.
Rehabilitation can also be overly focused on short-term comfort which can actually increase injury proneness and encourages injury suspension rather than resolution. Becoming anti-fragile and improving emotional and physical resilience is preferable to ensure both body and mind start to adapt more favourably to the challenges we set and expose ourselves to in running.
We all have an individual form or way of running for a myriad of different reasons which include our: strength, flexibility, height, weight, comfort, endurance and energy levels. We also execute many different strategies in reaction to the terrain, conditions, speed, inclination, perceived effort, even our shoes and clothing.
All these reactions, changes and variations are normal, and our mind and body must be flexible and adapt quickly, ideally with little conscious awareness of environmental connections whilst we run. This is flow, or being in the zone. Our foot to road connection need not be too different from other connections such as the shirt on our back i.e. unnoticeable. Settling into our rhythm quickly contextualising any interactions or perceived threats.
Having this physical and psychological flexibility should be recognised, nurtured and then celebrated when assessing and rehabilitating runners. Further, it should be the only real strategy in the prevention and resolution of running-related pain. Certainly, it should be the focus of rehabilitation ahead of moulding people to a utopic running form.
Lingering thoughts, elevated concern, or forced attention onto specific body parts is something to be curbed in a person experiencing running-related pain. Running and training without judgment is key. This is a normal state that a person should be supported towards, giving space for resilience to flourish and ultimately resolution to be achieved.
A new breed of super hero… Welly-man!
So, to highlight this and to test my clinical and personal understanding of the human mind and body, I intend to run the 2017 London Marathon in a pair of bog-standard Wellington Boots. Also, I plan to do minimal running in the Wellington Boots before the marathon, just a few jogs to ensure my socks work well.
Instead, I am relying on a training plan that has created a flexible healthy state where any new stress and strain has been an opportunity to improve resilience through further accommodation and adaptation. This is also what I look to achieve in clinical practice with patients.
The notion of running in Wellington Boots came from a conversation with a patient about running shoes. Something like…
Patient: “so what you’re saying is I’m safe to run in any type of shoe”
Me: “yeah providing they fit and are comfy”
Patient: “..Ok so what about Welly boots? They’re comfy.”
Me: “Yup, even Welly boots!…”
Nine months on and my Guinness World Record attempt is accepted for the 2017 London Marathon on the 23rd April.
Damian is no stranger to crazy running challenges. He has run 40 marathons in under 40 weeks as well as ran the worlds fastest ‘3 legged’ marathon in 3 hrs 07 secs! He has raised thousands of pounds in sponsorship for the Sheffield Children’s Hospital after they helped his son, and he is doing this ‘Welly Marathon’ challenge again for the Children’s Hospital Charity.
If you would like to support him and his gumboots please click this link here