Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Born To Run Review

It doesn't happen often, but today I feel amazingly enlightened. Two nights ago, I finished reading Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. The only reason I won't tell all of you to RUN out and buy it right away is because the language in the book is terrible! But the insights into the human body and our running potential were amazing! McDougall told an incredible story describing his journey leading up to a fifty-mile footrace in the Copper Canyons between arguably the best runners in the world. But thrown in with the story line were incredible discoveries on the human body, and the fact that quite literally, we were born to run.
Running is actually right at the heart of what it means to be human. Among other insights I gleaned from this book, here are a few thoughts:
  • The rate of running injuries has actually increased with the existence of more expensive, cushier running shoes. Our feet are looking for stability, and the more padding we land on, the harder we land (in search for the solid ground). The more expensive the running shoe, the higher the rate of injury! Who tells us to buy new shoes every 300 miles? (Besides the fact that I've said that before...ahem) THE COMPANIES SELLING RUNNING SHOES! Worn out shoes may actually be BETTER!
  • Some of the best college teams train barefoot! Imagine your one-year old is running out into a street, and you are standing in the driveway barefoot. How you would sprint after your child with your bare feet is probably exactly how you should be running with shoes on! Light on your feet, toes striking the ground first. (Have any of you tried the Vibram Five Fingers? I'd love to get my hands on a pair...the bare footing alternative!)
  • Other animals get in one breath per stride. When they reach their limit, they literally have to stop to pant and catch their breath. Humans can breathe multiple times per stride. We sweat to cool off, and we can continue running as we "rest." Because of this, our ancestors outlived the bigger, stronger neanderthals. They could literally RUN an animal down, and women were just as involved as men in the hunt! (Pregnant on the hunt? No problem...just squat on the side of the trail, pop that baby out, and continue tracking the animals). A typical hunt could last 4-5 hours...very similar to the time it takes most people to run a marathon today. Coincidence?
  • The best way to eat when training for a big run is to eat like a poor person! Recipes I'm dying to try after reading the book (Pinole and Iskiate--the Chia drink) can be found here!
  • Running should be sheer joy! It is, after all, the very essence of what it means to be human. Running should make you not only healthier, but happier, and a better person overall.
  • Running is the only sport in which males and females can participate together, and compete on almost equal levels. It's also the only sport we can actually get better at as we age...returning to our 19-year-old pace at the age of 64.

I drove my husband crazy as I read this book with all the insights I had to share with him every five seconds. He was pretty disheartened at the fact that our expensive running shoes could actually be hurting us, but also happy to know that if done right, running should not be painful at all.

As for my personal application of what I read, I've tried two things so far:

  1. I ran on the treadmill yesterday, and outside with my husband (and the jogging stroller) this morning. Each time, I focused on landing on my toes rather than my heels, and actually letting my toes spread as I landed instead of just relying on the shoes to take the impact. Result? I'm sure I still have work to do. My calves are super sore, but my knees (which have been bothering me lately) didn't hurt a bit! Maybe one of these days I'll brave a barefoot run on soft grass, but not until it's warm.
  2. This deserves it's own post, but I have one 3-year old, super defiant boy. I decided to take my kids to a local park this afternoon next to the trail my husband and I like to run on. Part of the trail circles the park. It's too cold and wet to play at the park, but we went there just for a run. My 3-year old literally ran around the track eight times. He probably ran close to two miles. And the expression on his face the whole time? PURE JOY! He loved the thrill of running as fast as his little legs would carry him. We came home, he was extremely AGREEABLE, took an awesome nap, and has been happy ever since. I don't know if running is the ultimate solution, but it can't hurt. So for my strong-willed child's sake, running around the park is now on the daily agenda. And as I watch him, I'm going to learn.

Running shouldn't only be the means to an end, but an experience. It should allow you to connect with your body, feel air on your face, connect with others, and feel the ultimate joy of what it means to be human.

YAY for running!


Evelyn and Art said...

Inspiring! I need to get to WORK! The post pregnancy flab and the winter blah is getting to me! I need those endorphines!

Shirley Hale said...

Very cool! I'm not much of a runner, yet, but it's cool to see how our bodies are meant to do it. I LOVED the story about your little boy! Hopefully tomorrow won't be any different!

Michael said...

I'm glad you read it so we can talk about it together. It made me want to go running barefoot, too, but I don't know if I'm ready to have to defend my lack of shoes like Roman had to at the relay...maybe he bought the Vibrams after he read "Born to Run."

Matt (No Meat Athlete) said...

It's good to see that others are as crazy over Born to Run as I am! It really made me start to love running. And I'm just starting to hit a little lull, wondering if I need to read it again for a pump up!

I did get a pair of Vibrams and I can highly recommend them. It's just a different kind of running that feels really good. Just be careful and build up mileage very slowly; a lot of people apparently get injured because we're so used to running the other way.

Thanks for the chia/pinole link!

Aly said...

This is so fascinating to me! Thanks for sharing! I think I told you that I am just now getting into running. NEVER in my life have I had even one drop of desire to do it, and now I find myself CRAVING it!! I am still very much a rookie and still building up speed and distance...what I do is very pathetic to what you call running :0). Yesterday I went to the gym with intentions of doing my lower body weight training, and somehow I found myself going into the cardio theatre instead and RUNNING!! I only did 3 miles, but I can't seem to get enough! I usually stop because my knees start hurting (maybe I need to leave my shoes at home). I will have to go check out this foul languaged running book soon!

Bonnie and Brian Wayne said...

Very interesting. Some schools of thought I have run into with other p.t.s are that running fast in small intervals and then walking and then running again give the same benefit as running constantly. Does he address that in the book at all - what is the take?

And YES February 1st sounds great!

Diane said...

Great post Robyn! Wish I could have seen our boy running those laps! This makes me want to RUN!!

Cindy said...

I am excited to try this. I wonder how running barefoot on my treadmill will be? I'm going to try it. I've stopped running due to back problems, but maybe this is my solution.
...And the barefoot shoes - my friend has a pair of them and swears they are the best thing ever.

Aubrey said...

I finished the book yesterday. I still don't want to run an ultra, but it does make me very curious about barefoot running. I get new shoes probably more often than the average person and feel like I NEED cushion, but maybe it's causing my problems. I also want to try the recipes. Did you ever try them?