Shake off old injuries with a fresh technique
“It’s very simple,” he says in his recent book. “You run for a short segment, take a walk break, and keep repeating this pattern . . . By inserting walk-breaks, you can manage fatigue and be strong to the finish. The resurgence of running muscles, with each walk break, bestows confidence to take on challenges. The ratio of running and walking allows one to feel better during and after the run, with the confidence to keep pushing further.”
It’s ideal for beginners, but he says elite runners use walk breaks on long runs to allow them to recover faster. For marathon runners, who accumulate heavy mileage, it’s also a good way to stave off injury.
If you’re planning to run a long race such as a marathon and have a specific goal in mind, he also uses a “magic mile” formula as a predictor of how you’re likely to fare.
In essence, it involves running a mile as fast as you can (after warming up thoroughly). Then, multiply your time by 1.3. So, let’s say you can run a mile in seven minutes. When adjusted, that equates to a marathon pace of 9:06 per mile in the marathon. This time includes taking a walking break.
As with all coaches, though, he warns against overexertion. He advises runners not to increase weekly mileage by more than 10 per cent per week, and suggests dropping total mileage in half every third or fourth week to allow the body to recover.
Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run, on how the author overcame injuries after adopting the stride of the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico, has heightened interest in barefoot running. Its supporters tend to be near-evangelical in their support of this approach, and many say barefoot running has cured them of various running-related injuries.
A study published in the journal Nature last year lent scientific weight to the theorising. It found that Kenyan schoolchildren who lived in urban areas and normally wore shoes ran differently from those who lived in the country and were almost always barefoot.
When the city kids ran over a special platform that measured how their feet hit the ground, most landed on their heels, resulting in a lot of pounding and wear-and-tear. In contrast, barefoot children tended to land towards the front of their feet, with less impact on the body.
So should we throw away our runners?
Not necessarily. Research shows that the body tends to hang on to what it is familiar with. So, if you dispense with your runners, you won’t suddenly start running with the right form. It’s more likely you’ll continue to pound around the place, potentially causing even greater damage. As with chi-running, it takes patience and perseverance to develop a new stride.