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Beginners Running

When people say that they want to get fit or lose weight or indeed both of the above, one of the activities that they more often than not have in mind is running. And why not? Running can be a fantastic health promoting activity, but there is always a but. Running is quite difficult, but I hear you say, another but, everyone is running, there are people out on the street every day running, I see on Youtube people running, talking about running, reviewing shoes and clothes for running. More on Youtube runners in a moment.

Well to a point you are right, at any given time there are lots of people running, but, there’s another but. How many of those runners you see are running healthily without injury? Take a look how many are wearing knee braces or ankle straps, if you have a local runner that you see regularly, how often do they disappear from your street? They’re probably taking time off injured.

A question might come to mind; if running is so healthy, why are people getting injured all of the time? The answer might surprise you, quite simply as a species humans are not very good (fast) runners, compared that is with other animals. Take your typical domestic cat, if you could point it in a straight line it would easily outpace the fastest human over 100M and as for dogs, an overfed Labrador would leave the same human sprinter floundering some distance in its wake, When we are amazed by someone’s latest running performance we think wow that’s amazing, to be more accurate we should be thinking wow that’s amazing… for a human!

At this point I want to raise a really important point. Social Media in general and Youtube in particular. Social Media can be a fantastic resource unfortunately it has the capacity to distort our sense of reality. There’s no shortage of stories about how social media is damaging the lives of young people. It is not, however, just young people who fall for the distortions of reality that Social media and those famous algorithms, we can all get sucked into viewing a very narrow version of reality.

If you have developed an interest in running it is very likely that you will have viewed some, or possibly many, Youtube clips featuring runners of varying abilities, but even the ones who modestly describe themselves as an average Joe are in all likelihood anything but average. Take a look at the chart below, it comes from a 2019 survey of Marathon results from around the world.

What this chart shows is that the proportion of people completing a Marathon under three and half hours is tiny, not at all average, the stars show the UK Athletics Olympic Marathon qualification requirements. These people are at the extreme end of elite, there are probably more people with an IQ of 200 than there are Olympic qualifiers. Statistically speaking these people are absolute outliers and are statistically completely irrelevant to the rest of us. Almost every one of this super minority will have been spotted at a very young age as an outstanding talent and will have been nurtured over many years.

What humans are naturally really good at is walking and jogging, in particular it is our prowess at walking that has enabled the human race to reach and populate every habitable space on earth. Our unique bipedal upright structure has evolved to give us phenomenal energy economy. A typical human walking gait utilises our tendons and fascial tissues to absorb and recycle our walking energy. A typical walking gait on a level surface will be maintained by recycling up to 93% of our energy step to step, so we only have to input 7% of energy to maintain our momentum. You might have noticed that a slow stop start walk around a shopping mall or museum is far more fatiguing than just walking around a park for an hour. That’s because the stop start walk loses the energy recycling efficiency  of continuous motion.

As humans evolved into one of the earth’s apex predator species, we didn’t achieve that by being great runners, rather it was because of our walking prowess combined with our ability to sweat. Our ability to dissipate heat exceeds that of almost all of our prey animal targets. Our ancestors learned to stalk a likely animal by walking and jogging towards the animal to make it run away, the animal would then heat up and stop to recover. Our ancestors walked to close the distance and once again when closer jog towards the animal to make it run away. Once in a while if necessary we would add a short sprint into the mix to heighten the anxiety of the prey animal. But sprinting would be limited due to its high metabolic cost its mechanical impact and the increased risk of falling resulting in injury on rough terrain. This process would be repeated multiple times until the animal became heat exhausted. 

The Walk / Jog / Walk repeat cycle is the absolute metabolic and mechanical sweet spot for human anatomy, it’s what we are made to do. In future posts I’ll outline how to develop a training regime that will, if you wish, progress you to a healthy running lifestyle.

In many ways the key take away is that running is rewarding simply because it’s difficult. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to run a 5K or a Marathon or even an ultra marathon, but just remember that the reward comes from the fact that you are doing something that humans are not very good at. Approach the process incorrectly or in a rush and it is likely to end in failure and possibly injury.

Battle ego, don’t compare yourself to others especially on social media, Strava etc.

If you’re interested in the history of our diet and how you can manage and improve your eating habits I wrote a Kindle book a few years ago that goes into great detail on the subject. Click on the image to go to Amazon.

If you need a little personal help with your diet, running or lifestyle in general  get in touch.

#couchto5k #runningtips #weightmanagement #healthandfitness #runninginjuries #startrunning