Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Anthropology and Running

This blog post is not going to be an ad for Foundation Training or any other specific training scheme.  Rather, I offer just a small reflection on how fascinating the body is.  The 2 Secret Causes of Your Running Injuries offers anthropological insights into how we use our bodies, and these insights are enlightening for runners and non-runners alike:
And for the majority of us, the main culprit is sitting.

Just think about how much we sit. We sit when we eat, in our car to and from work, while we work, when we watch t.v., heck, even at the gym as we sit on the stationary bikes for hours!

At no other time in our history as humans have we sat for such extended periods of time. And, as a result, our bodies have began to adapt to this position.

To offset the gravitational forces pulling down on us as we sit, our bodies begin to compensate: Our head starts to droop forward, our pelvis’ become tucked, our glutes get stretched out while the hip flexors become shortened. Our bodies literally adapt to a seated position, so that when we go to do ‘normal’ human activities, like walk, run, lift, jump, or climb, our bodies can no longer perform them correctly.
I love coming across information like this.  It's a valuable thing to do, looking at how our bodies would or should work, if they could be removed from cultural influences.  That's something I was taught from a very early age.  What's the natural state for the body?  How, then, do you bring about healing when something is wrong?  Running helped cure knee pain and back pain that began creeping into my life more frequently as I hit my late thirties and early forties.  It was pure chance that I discovered that running eliminated those pains.  I cannot help but wonder if the aches were a result of sedentary living.  Would more people out there benefit from getting out and moving, as they age? 

Advil has its time and its place; I've been grateful for it more than I can remember.  But for long-term aches and pains?  There might be a better solution.  It's not easy for me, getting out of that sitting position to go running.  However, it's better than being forced onto the couch for a few days because the back pain has flared up again.
Dysfunction is often easy to spot and presents as asymmetries of the body. The right and left sides of your body should look and function the exact same. Thus, in the vast majority of cases, unequal leg lengths or a hip that is higher than the other is not the result of poor genetics, it is the result of muscular imbalances.

The same holds true for knees with worn out cartilage or flat arches in the feet. These conditions are VERY rarely a result of genetics or old age; rather, they are a result of poor movement patterns repeated over time. Just because you have been running for 20 years does not necessitate the wearing down of your knees.

Consider more primitive groups like the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico who run their whole lives without ACL tears, meniscus injuries, or plantar fasciitis. They have members of their tribe who are in their seventies and eighties who still run marathon distances without any pain.

I know what you’re thinking: “Well Jon, these groups probably have great genes.”

We know this is not the reason for their athletic longevity because when these groups are introduced to a more modern way of living, they develop disease and injuries at the same rate as the rest of us.
What's the natural state for the body?  That has driven a lot of my health choices over the years. Alas, I didn't always pay attention to the natural state of things.  Before I knew soy was making me sick, I jumped on the bandwagon that proclaimed soy-disguised-as-a-chicken-strip was better for me than a home-cooked chicken tenderloin.  What was I thinking?  Luckily, consideration of the natural state saved me from some bad decisions. Back in my secular days, I would never have chosen various and assorted chemical or surgical practices that are labeled as "women's health" nowadays.  Those methods are all about subverting something that the body does naturally, in essence, 'breaking' something that is working just fine, thank you.  Thus, Church teachings on birth control weren't a stretch for me, as I returned to the faith.  Reason and faith are joined; moral law and natural law embrace.

Don't get me wrong.  I am more grateful than I can say for modern medicine.  Even if the concept of open heart surgery isn't 'natural,' it fixes the body when something has gone wrong.  Where modern medicine is used to heal what has gone wrong, it's a good thing.  Still, an anthropological look at our bodies can teach us a lot about how our cultural constructs can and do run contrary to the natural state of our physical selves. 

Catholics, we've got science on our side.  Now, get moving!

No comments:

Post a Comment