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The Human Body Is Built for Distance

Posted Oct 29 2009 12:00am

Monday there was a wonderful article in the New York Times about how great the human body is designed and that we are indeed designed to run and run great distances. It’s great to see people doing research and coming out challenging the widely circulating myths that our body is fragile and can’t handle things like running. I have included some highlights below.

The article starts by asking:

Does running a marathon push the body further than it is meant to go?

The conventional wisdom is that distance running leads to debilitating wear and tear, especially on the joints. But that hasn’t stopped runners from flocking to starting lines in record numbers.

But research is starting to pile up that disproves the belief that running is bad for the body:

In “ Born to Run ” (Knopf), Christopher McDougall , an avid runner who had been vexed by injuries, explores the world of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, a tribe known for running extraordinary distances in nothing but thin-soled sandals. Mr. McDougall makes the case that running isn’t inherently risky. Instead, he argues that the commercialization of urban marathons encourages overzealous training, while the promotion of high-tech shoes has led to poor running form and a rash of injuries.

The article goes on to say what Pete Egoscue has been saying for years:

The scientific evidence supports the notion that humans evolved to be runners.

Dr. Lieberman said. “There are so many features in our bodies from our heads to our toes that make us good at running.”

Then the big question is asked:

So if we’re born to run, why are runners so often injured? A combination of factors is likely to play a role, experts say. Exercise early in life can affect the development of tendons and muscles, but many people don’t start running until adulthood, so their bodies may not be as well developed for distance. Running on only artificial surfaces and in high-tech shoes can change the biomechanics of running, increasing the risks of injury.

And as Pete Egoscue so famously said, “We are dying of a lack of motion.” Our bodies are designed to handle long distance running and tennis and basketball and golf and every other activity you can think of…as long as we have good posture. The reason why so many runners (and golfers and tennis players and swimmers, etc.) get injured is because they no longer have good posture. You are hopefully thinking “why?”

First we must remember that our posture – the alignment of our bones – is determined by our muscle memory. Our muscle memory is a reflection of our life experience or simply, what we have done with our bodies. We all know that our body is organic and constantly responding to our environment and that is why it’s commonly said our muscles work on the principle of “use it or lose it.” Because of our lack of motion, we fail to stimulate all our muscles causing us to develop muscle imbalances that lead to postural changes. These postural imbalances are what cause injuries, wear and tear, and pain. Correct the muscles imbalances and the posture improves and the pain goes away. Then we can once again experience the joy of movement – whether it be running a marathon, playing 18 holes of golf, or playing a game of pick-up basketball.

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