Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Beginning

Having been a runner for many years, at least 30, I have found that what was meant to be a simple sport or exercise, as some prefer to call it, that complexity had began to spoil it.

What do I mean by complexity, well, at one time I would just pull on some cheap running shoes and bolt out of the door.
There was not a huge array of choices in running shoes back then and I wouldn't pay much for shoes as money was short, running was a cheap pass-time and it got you into the outdoors and fresh air.

As in all endeavours, as you progress through and improve you want to improve more and so spend more on better shoes that will help you run with more comfort and faster.
Eventually you hit your peak then start to slow down due to injuries that stop you training and the consistency goes out of the window.
As I spent more on running shoes to stop injuries it seemed that the more injuries I got.

I came down with a knee injury back in 1999 that took may months of treatment to clear up. It was during this treatment that is was suggested that, as I was a pronator that I required orthotics and a stabilised running shoe, the Brooks Beast was the suggested shoe.
The Beasts cost about $250 at the time and the orthotics cost $400, so for something that was supposed to be a non expensive sport it was sure changing.

Well, did all this help you may ask, well, frankly no it didn't.
I can see why the Beasts got their name, they are a beast of a shoe. Along with the orthotics they took the pleasure out of running, I clomped along with these inflexible cushioned lumps on the bottom of my feet and the orthotics pushed up against my arches to 'support' them.

I got shin pains and all the weight on my feet tired me more quickly.
Then I started developing Achilles Tendon pains that I couldn't shift. They became so tender I could hardly touch them.

Back to the Podiatrist.

Umm, he says, well, I did tell you running was bad for you, this is a common response from most of the doctors I've seen when looking for help on an injury, if you didn't run then you wouldn't get injured.
Umm maybe obesity is a better alternative!
He sugested we ease the pressure on the Achilles by placing even more foam padding under the heel ro raise it up.
This sort of worked but made me feel very unstable, like running in platform shoes. I think I turned my ankle at least once during this elevated time and I pulled a calf muscle that took weeks to heal up.

It was not long after this that I began developing the notion that maybe, just maybe, doctors are not the experts they think they are.
While searching for Achilles Tendonitis cures I came across an interesting article from Sweden that said you had to strengthen the Calf and the ankles to to stop Tendonitis.
They had some exercises that you could do, I tried them and they worked.

The exercise was simple excentric strenthening of the calf. Find a step and balance on your toes on the edge, heel hanging over. On your good leg lift yourself onto the tips of toes, transfer the weight over to the other leg then gradually lower yourself.
Be careful with this as you will find that walking is near impossible a couple of days later.
If you do this for a month the tendoitis will be gone. I tried it and it was.

I threw out the foam pads from the shoes and the shoes themselves in favour of some lighter more flexible shoes, still with pronation control though, Asics 2140 (0r whatever they were back then).

That was about about 5 years ago.
I was still running with the orthotics (and getting reminder notices to go in for a checkup) and the Gel 2140's but I was still getting shin pains (numbness), pulling muscles. Maybe it was just old age, maybe the doctors are right in that you have to give it up over 40.

Jump forward to September of this year. I get an email from a friend of mine showing a pair of strange shoes with positions for all the toes. I just had to get a pair.

So, this is basically going to be a diary of a change in direction of my running, is it what I have been looking for all these years?
We never question the products that are sold to us or the doctors that give us advice as we assume that they are experts that know what they are talking about.
But why would you believe your doctor if he/she was not a runner? what credibility could they have.

The first week of wearning the Vibram shoes it felt like the underside of my feet had been beaten with a bat, this was the awakening of muscles that had lain dormant, not out of choice but by using devices that were purported to correct running styles and lead to less injuries.

I wore them as directed, around the house for a few hours, but I must admit, I did get a bit over enthusiastis and took them onto the treadmill at the gym.
My calves ached like nothing I have had for years, they were working harder, doing the job they were supposed to do before they were put out of action by elevated heels.
I'll continue later to fill in three weeks that have followed.

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