Friday, November 19, 2010

Casual Friday: Run!

From Barefoot Ted, one of the
people in the book.
Today I'll talk about Christopher McDougall's excellent Born to Run. It's very popular, so you may have read it already, but it's so good I have to bring it up again. It's a non-fiction book about modern ultramarathoners running a race against the Tarahumara, a Mexican tribe with (apparently) superhuman running abilities. The "plot" is set up like any great sports movie, so it's exciting to read as well as educational.

Christopher's general thesis is that we humans are literally born to run, in that running possesses the secrets to our evolutionary survival and lifelong wellbeing. Not to get all cosmic on you, but running may be the reason that we exist at all. The book goes into the evolutionary divergence between Homo sapiens (us) and the Neanderthals. Spoiler alert:  we survived and they didn't, probably because our bodies are made for running, allowing us to develop our intelligence instead of physical strength.

I've written before about the emotional and neurological benefits of exercise. Running carries the most benefits, but you have to do it right so you don't get injured. Basically, everything you think you know about shoes is wrong. According to the book, high-end running shoes make you 123% MORE prone to injury. So what can you do?

Run barefoot!

Yes, apparently the natural musculature of the human foot is the best running shoe there is. Professional running shoes, with all their padding and rubber, block your feet from doing their job. Tiny scrapes on your feet are minor compared to the knee and bone injuries that you could suffer if you run with too much shoe padding. People may look at you funny, but your legs will thank you. Just make sure you run on grass in the beginning! Also, don't pay too much attention to your timer. Running should be a joy, not homework. Interestingly, running for no reason will probably make you faster anyway, and will certainly make you more likely to continue running over time. Like the Tarahumara, you can live longer, and continue running marathons well into your sixties!

So why are you still at your computer? Run!


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  2. I love running! Not so sure about running barefoot though... I guess I'm concerned with broken glass, cigarette butts that are still burning and whatnot that can get in the way lol

  3. Yes, you have to be careful! A clean, grassy area is the best place to do this. You may also try shoes without much padding, as counterintuitive as it may seem. The Tarahumara run marathons through rocky desert areas, wearing only sandals on their feet, and they almost never get injured!