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How You’re Hurting Yourself by Running Incorrectly

Are You Running Right?

 

Whether you realize it or not, there’s a very big chance that you’re not running correctly. Actually, you might not even be walking right. Before you get your knickers in a twist, though, you should know that it’s not uncommon. Many people hardly give any thought to the right walking or running form. Because why should they? There are so many other things to worry about. As long as you can get from point A to point B with no problem, then you should be fine, right?

Well, not really. You may not know it but for every single (wrong) step, a shock is sent through the body. And yes, you may not be feeling any pain. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t hurting and damaging your joints.

How People Run

Before we go any further, let me just say that there still aren’t enough studies that cover the impact of running wrong on the joints. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot check it out yourself.

Now, this is usually what happens when one jumps.

A person will stand on a flat surface and launch himself into the air. He will likely land on the balls of his feet and then the heels will come down. Sounds simple enough, right? Is it surprising to know that the shock generated by the movement isn’t centered on the feet alone, though?

When one land on the balls of his feet, the foot arches compress as the heels come down. This absorbs the impact of the jump. It also subsequently decompresses to spring you. When the heels come down, the calves also contract and puts pressure on the Achilles’ tendon. At the same time, the quadriceps contract to put tension on the patellar tendons and the knees bend some more to absorb the impact.

Try jumping. You’ll notice it doesn’t end there. The hips also end up a bit bent. And the higher you jump (or the harder the surface you jump on), the more exaggerated this bent position will be. This position is actually perfect for propelling you towards another jump because the potential energy has been built up from the arches and the tendons.

This is what takes place when you jump. This should be the same when you run.

running heel 2

 

How You’re Hurting Yourself

Most runners, however, use the heel strike to absorb the shock when they run.  

Let’s take another look at that jumping exercise. Try it for yourself. This time, however, make an effort to land on your heel. How many tries did it take you? Psychologically, we aren’t hardwired to heel strike. So in order to do it, you must:

  • shift your feet slightly forward
  • bend your feet back

 

To make it simple, you must lock your ankle joints. Or you can try locking your knee joints instead. It will achieve the same result.

How’s that jump going to look? Your legs will be completely straight in front with your feet bent back. And that is how a heel-strike run looks too.

Unfortunately, that means no part of the impact is absorbed by the arches of the feet or the calves or the knees and hips. Muscles and tendons really don’t play a significant part in shock absorption. And landing on the heel, you definitely will feel the jarring motion throughout the entire body. And that’s hardly natural, is it?

If you keep doing it, you’re risking getting shin splints. You are moving your center of balance in a position that’s unstable. The heels’ padding may dampen or block the pain. But blocking it doesn’t mean removing the impact.

Think running, or walking, heel first is hard?

Try marching in place first. From there, move forward and try to keep the form. You can imagine you’re attempting to walk across the room silently or carrying a cup full to the brim. Now that’s not so hard, is it?

Running is good exercise. But you don’t want to be doing it and end up harming your body in the long run. So consider changing your running stance. It may actually allow you to run faster and longer.

 

Image: Karah Levely-Rinaldi / CC BY-ND

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11 December 2014

« Running is good exercise. But you don’t want to be doing it and end up harming your body in the long run. »

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