A while ago I wrote a popular article on a contentious topic: I posed the question of whether “being a slow runner” was a protective measure against having bad running form—in other words, whether people are artificially lowering their injury risk by semipermanently limiting their athletic horizons.
I wrote this as an answer to the many experiments out there that find no link between incidence of injury and running form (or type of footstrike, etc). An underlying claim of my article is that perhaps the reason that experiments find no connection is that the incidence of injury caused by “bad form” has been artificially reduced by runners slowing down in order to reduce the force dished to their bodies. The implication being, of course, that if they had good form, they would be in a position—literally, an alignment—that would allow their body to correctly, and therefore efficiently, interact with those forces. In that sense, good form may not reduce injury risk itself, but it will create faster runners.
In other words, I think it will reduce injury risk—at a given speed X or given distance Y.
I’ve made no secret of what I believe “good alignment” or “good form” to be.
I bring this topic up again because of a comment made by Gray Cook, movement expert and founder of Functional Movement Systems (FMS), on the topic of exercise, alignment, and injury risk:
“What you’re going to do inherently to manage your injury risk . . . you’re going to find yourself limited, and you’re going to migrate to those abilities that don’t cause you a problem. And you’re going to lower your injury risk by narrowing your life.”
The full video is 9 minutes long, and the quote is from the beginning of minute 8.
It doesn’t serve us to think of running as we generally think of “sports.” Instead, let’s regard running as a form of expression. When we approach an activity we see as a “sport,” we typically ask: “what’s the goal here? Is it to get from A to B as quickly as possible? Is it to get the ball into the net?” And we put our bodies and minds in service of answering that question.
But there’s a problem with that: if we approach a sport with neural, muscular, or skeletal issues (which pretty much all of us westerners have, to one extent or another), our bodies will find ways around those problems for the purpose of achieving the stated goal.
That means that the body will find a less efficient way to conduct mechanical energy through the body, as long as the job gets done. Too much of this and you’ve got yourself an injury.
But suppose that instead we treat running (and other sports) as forms of expression. Then we enter a path of self-discovery, where improvements in speed and power are achieved as a by-product of increasing our efficiency, and our knowledge of the deep principles of our sport.
Continue reading Running, writing, and athletic expression.
I found this very interesting article, titled Beyond the Marathon: (De)Construction of Female Ultrarunning Bodies.
As with most scholarly works, it’s both dense and eloquent. In addition, it brings up several interesting points, including, (but not limited to) the following:
- In a sport such as ultrarunning, the ideal performance body is often defined by an ideal body shape.
- The authors, however, also hypothesize that ultrarunning may be more amenable than other sports (and other social situations) to allow women to self-determine, i.e. to create a (more) unique identity.
In other words, this article examines an interface between a biological system (the body), a physical system (the demands of the race) and a social system (the female ideal).
In a future blog post I’ll discuss this article at length, paying special attention to its findings in relation to the mission of my blog.
But for now, I’m curious to know what you think about the article, or about how the biological-physical system and social systems interact in ultrarunning, running, or the sports culture. In other words:
- How do you think that social dynamics (and identity politics) influence running, sports, and ultrarunning?
- How do you think that physical systems of running, ultrarunning, and sports as a whole, influence the emergence of particular social dynamics?
UPDATE: For your convenience, here is the abstract:
This article examines the ways in which high-performance female ultrarunning bodies are created and understood through the discourses of the normative running body, the ideal female body and pain. Using a Foucauldian framework, this paper shows how the ultrarunning body becomes a desired body beyond the marathon and how these same desires produce multiple and complex subjectivities for female ultrarunners. In-depth interviews were conducted with 8 high performance female ultrarunners. Findings suggest that ultrarunning is a sporting space which gives rise to more diverse subjectivities than previously found in distance running literature. Simultaneously, this discourse produces disciplined bodies through the mode of desire and “unquestioned” social norms, paralleling the constructs of extreme sports and (re)producing middle-classness.