Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

We Evolved to Run—But We’re Doing It All Wrong

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It’s been a while since I ran, but when I did, I favored LSD: long, slow distance. As noted, it becomes a meditative thing, particularly if you are lucky enough to be able to run in natural surroundings. One note: I started getting knee pain, with my knee “grabbing” painfully at random times, particularly when going up steps. I read through the various running magazines I was getting at the time, and found an article from a doctor who said that knee pain is generally from improper foot strike: if the foot strikes crookedly, it puts stress on the knees (and in fact, as I learned, it can go on up the body to affect hips and back). I knew I had flat feet (fallen arches), so I made an appointment with a podiatrist.

As it happened, I had an appointment with my regular GP the morning before my afternoon appointment with the podiatrist. I don’t recall the reason, but after the discussion and recommendations of why I came, he asked how things were going in general, and I mentioned I had an appointment later with a podiatrist for the knee pain. He went into alert mode when I said “podiatrist” and immediately sought to show that a real MD was the proper resource. He had me put my leg up on the table. He felt my knee for a while, pressing here and there, and then gave me his official MD advice: “Stop running.”

I decided to see the podiatrist anyway, and he explained quite cogently how flat arches made one’s foot strike obliquely and that it indeed did stress the knees. He gave me prescription orthotics that raised my arches, and the knee pain went away.

Simon Worrall writes in National Geographic:

These days, running seems to have little to do with survival—it’s all about sport watches and burning calories.

But for our remote ancestors, the ability to run over long distances in pursuit of prey, such as ostrich or antelope, gave us an evolutionary edge—as well as an Achilles tendon ideal for going the distance. (Related: “Humans Were Born to Run, Fossil Study Suggests.”)

In his new book, Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human, University of Kent researcher Vybarr Cregan-Reid reminds us of this often forgotten history. To him, running is ultimately about freedom and leaving the gadgets behind to connect with nature (he calls treadmills the “junk food of exercise.”)

On the phone from London, the author told National Geographic how he was inspired by his Irish uncle, who ran in the Olympics, and why he believes running barefoot is more natural—and less likely to result in injury.

You definitely win the prize for the most unusual name we have had on Book Talk. Tell us a bit about yourself—and how you got into running.

Both my parents are Irish and Vybarr is derived from an Irish name, Finbar. But it’s a family mystery as to why I’m called Vybarr. There are quite a few stories as to where the name came from but none of them add up.

I have been running on and off since my early 20s, but only properly got into it about 10-15 years ago. I’m now nearly 50. There is running in my family. My uncle on my mother’s side was called Jim Cregan. He thought he couldn’t run under that name if he ran for England instead of Ireland, so he ran for Great Britain under the name of Jim Hogan. He came from 1930s rural Ireland, and my grandparents thought he was mad for being so into running. But he ran and ran, most of the time barefoot. He ran for Ireland and later for Great Britain in two Olympics. He also won a gold at the European championships in 1966.

I have to confess: I am someone who loves sports of all kinds, but I heartily dislike running. Convert me!

The first thing I’d say is, you’re probably not doing it right. Most people dislike running because they have memories of things like running for a bus. That kind of running is usually deeply unpleasant, almost vomit-inducing. Most beginners give up when they get injured because they’ve done too much, too soon. Most of the benefits from running derive from going very slowly.

I’m also suspicious of it being a sport. It doesn’t have to be practiced as one. It’s something innate to who we are as a species. It’s a means of getting in touch with the environment and our own thoughts. It’s also a way of releasing some of those body-made endorphins, almost like a “legal high,” that is actually good for us.

You write, “we are born to run.” Explain the role of running in our evolution—and how it is even reflected in our anatomy. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 August 2017 at 10:35 am

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