Hey boys and girls. It’s your friendly neighbourhood running coach. Today I would like to address a significant rising issue that is threatening the health of the majority of our recreational exercisers. The issue is the predominant mindset of the current running community.
Over the past few years, there has been a surplus in running clinics, running groups and an overall increase in exposure to the sport of running in the media. For example, here in Toronto the number of participants in the Sporting Life 10k rose from 17, 000 runners last year to roughly 35, 000 runners this year (2014). There has been an increase in the number of running events as well from ultramarathons outside the city (Eg. Guelph triathlon, Oakville, etc) to shorter 5k themed runs. Local running clubs from the Running rats to Running rooms, have grown in numbers at an amazing rate. A quick google search of local running groups in Toronto will get you over 30 different running groups in the city of Toronto alone.
Being a competitive distance runner, I was glad to see that the running community was growing and as a physical therapist / trainer, a part of me is glad to see that more and more people are taking that first step to a healthier and more active lifestyle. But the reason why you are reading this and the reason why I am writing is not to praise the growing running community.
As I mentioned, my career is in fixing people in how they move to make sure they move well and for a very long time. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a recreational runner on the streets of downtown Toronto and cringed a little bit by how they moved. Sometimes I see a group of these runners running together with a “coach” and the inner coach in me is absolutely HULKING out! With the number of certified trainers and kinesiology students being churned out by the big Toronto Universities and Colleges, you would think that there would be no shortage of qualified coaches to run these clinics (pun intended). Yet this is not the case at all, WHY???
The issue is grounded in various overlapping reasons. The first and more obvious reason is that most personal trainers/kinesiology students (unless they have a passion for running or endurance sports) rarely take interest in such activities. Most coaches at these clinics/clubs are at two extremes; Elite level runners and coaches who are well versed in their field OR the recreational runners who do not have a background or even a foundation in the know-how of biomechanics but run because they enjoy it. Now the problem of course is that qualified coaches and teachers tend to come at a cost whereas volunteer coaches (who make up the predominant amount of clinics and clubs out there) are usually free of cost. Therefore a large amount of runners simply are not getting the adequate amount of training and coaching in their movement patterns. To borrow a phrase from Gray Cook, you have to earn your movement first before you repeat that movement. Like most education, if individuals are not qualified the pupils suffer. In the case of running, the pupils suffer from potentially tearing ACL’s, Plantar Fasciitis, IT Band syndrome, etc. and I simply cannot be ok with this.
What exacerbates the first problem is that a large group of the recreational runners who participate in these clinics think their weekly running is “enough” for their overall health and fitness. Now obviously it is a difficult task for anyone to learn about their body (let alone read in depth into anatomy and physics) on top of their jobs and other obligations that take up a lot of their time. But what needs to happen is that if a coach is not well versed in the field of kinesiology (or at least enough to make exercise recommendations), he or she should make a recommendation for an individual to seek out a professional to help fix his or her motor patterns before running more.
The last major problem I see within the running world is not so different from the Crossfit community. Because the structure of these types of fitness groups is geared towards large groups, the attention to detail is simply not given to individual. And as these individuals train with faulty movement patterns, problems arise. To compensate for this, the health and fitness industry convolutes the industry with an endless array of products that act as crutches for people as a temporary (and not scientifically sound) fixes. Ranging from wraps to leg sleeves, from various supposedly uniquely designed shoes to in soles. All of these products are temporary fixes that do not address the root of the problem. The fix of course is to strength train properly to fix muscle and movement imbalances and asymmetries. Yes it is a lot of work but if you do not want to have invasive surgery to fix a ruined leg in a few years then you have to invest in your body. Take the time to either hire a qualified and proven personal trainer or talk to experts in the field to help you.
Thanks for reading and may you all run long and prosper!