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Top 10 things I’ve learned from running

By Staff | May 27, 2011

1. 1979 Humans were designed to run barefoot, and it was a fun, natural activity(source – my uncle and barefoot beach runner Dr. Anthony Cucuzzella).

I could run 10 miles on the beach barefoot without ever “training” at age 12. This was fun, easy activity and one that my body was designed to do. Maybe I should give up football. At the time I was 12 years old and weighed 85 pounds – a wise choice.

2. 1985 – Treat the cause of injury (source- University of Virginia team physician Dr. Daniel Kulund).

Like almost all collegiate runners, my story was one of a constant battle against injury. Dan spent over an hour evaluating the entire kinetic chain while running and my training methods. Dan opened first Running Medicine clinic in 1979. He was ahead of his time.

3. 2000 – There is a better way to run, and it is what the Africans are doing (source – watching Kenyans run).

After recovering from foot surgery in 2000, I was told my body was not designed to run. I started to think about how the Kenyans ran with no shoes. I started running all my miles in thin “racing flats” and learned to run with a light quick foot step, gentle landings, shorter strides and not pushing hard into the ground.

4. 2001 – Get faster by running slow (source – Dr. Phil Maffetone and Mark Allen).

On a flight I picked up the magazine in the seat back and read an intriguing article by six-time Ironman Champ Mark Allen. The methods focused on becoming completely efficient at one’s pure aerobic heart rate. This is the level where fat utilization is the primary fuel source. It builds the aerobic system to its maximal potential. With weeks of practice and patience, my pace dropped with the same low heart rate. When I started this method I was running 9 minutes a mile at a HR of 155. Three months later close to 6 minutes a mile at the same HR.

5. 2005 Run from the “center” and relax everything else (source – Danny Dreyer of ChiRunning).

In 2005 there was an article in the Washington Post on ChiRunning. The short piece was intriguing, and I bought the book. After the first read and a little practice, I realized what I was missing – draw the power from the core and “relax the legs.” This was a method I could visualize completely. More importantly as a physician I knew this was a teachable method for the masses of recreational runners who were often injured, trying to run more comfortably or afraid to or told not to run anymore.

6. 2007 – Fix the “Chassis” (source – Jay Dicharry of UVA Center for Endurance Sport).

Jay is a Physical Therapist extraordinaire and director of a $1.5-million gait lab. The most import lesson he taught me involved a $2 box. I could not support my body on one leg. This was a problem as the running motion requires you to land and support on one leg. So I fixed my “chassis” with some simple exercises.

7. 2008 There is a smart design to a shoe that complements the smartest designthe human foot (source – Danny Abshire of Newton Running).

After an aborted minimalist shoe project with a major shoe company, I came across Newton Running Company just born.

They had no other agenda than to teach good form and provide footwear that promoted natural running. I contacted Danny to see if I could help his mission from the education and medical side. I could immediately see the shoe’s complementary benefits to natural form. The outsole and midsole design allowed beautiful elastic recoil if one relaxed their lower legs. The company was willing to battle the giants tooa mission I was more than happy to join.

8. 2010 – We were “Born to Run” (source – Chris McDougall and Dr. Dan Lieberman).

2010 was the tipping point year in the natural running movement. I had the privilege of speaking on a panel hosted by Runners World on the barefoot debate at the Boston Marathon. Dr. Lieberman and I were in the same camp. His work was of the highest scientific standards with two cover articles in the journal “Nature.” I believe we had the convincing argument. I met “Born to Run” author Chris McDougall that day, too. To me he was the rock star in the room and with Dan the leaders of the “bottom up” Barefoot Revolution. This is where the people drive the change and not the authorities (doctors and running industry). Chris was kind enough to visit our small town in May 2010.

9. 2011 – Science supports getting rid of “big bulky shoes” (source – Blaise Dubois of The Running Clinic Canada).

I came across some of the writings of Blaise Dubois of Canada, another Quixotic figure who has been hosting conferences on the topic around the world He had hundreds of literature references and strong clinical teaching in the field of running injuries. I invited him here for the first U.S. conference. It was a huge success and clinicians traveled from around the world to come and learn. We are doing it again June 23-25 at the Bavarian Inn.

10. 2011 – “Run” don’t “jog” (source- Lee Saxby of Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot).

I spent two days this winter with Guru Lee Saxby of England. He beautifully described and displayed for me what the whole running form and barefoot movement was all about. “Running” in humans is a natural gait pattern distinct from “walking” and “sprinting.” It is all relaxed and relies on elastic recoil and stored energy in muscle and tendon units. It is how we all ran when we were kids running barefoot. Enter the modern shoe with large thick heel. We now land hard on the heel, loss all momentum, get no elastic recoil from stored energy, and we load the structures with high peak impacts. This is called “jogging,” and it is not a natural human movement pattern.