Runners . . . On Your Mark, Ready, Set.....Swim.

For many of the years of my youth I watched just about every NBA basketball game I could get my eyes on.  When I wasn’t dreaming of playing ball in the big time I was at the local YMCA in my small town shooting jump shots, working on my fading jumper (because i was a small guard with no vertical, the worst of combinations), and working on my ball handling techniques. I was not a great player, not by any means, but I could play in pretty competitive pick up games and at least be somewhat respectable (note that ‘somewhat’ is highlighted).  But I still dreamed big about the NBA until I became old enough to realize that I was just too short and not blessed with the natural talent for the game that others obviously had been blessed. No matter how much I dreamed, being 5 foot 8 inches wasn’t going to ever get me to the big dance.  Body type, form, physiology and your anatomy have a big part in what sport you will be good at. There just are not too many 5'8" NBA guards, there never were minus Mugsy and Spud. They were an exception, obvious outliers. 

Are you a runner with runner’s anatomy ?  Do you have bowed legs ? Forefoot varus flat feet ? Anteverted hips ? Excessive tibial torsion ?  These are not great traits for runners. They tend to lead to many biomechanical issues that provoke injury at a much higher incidence than someone like my friend Charlie Kern , the USA masters mile champion.  Charlie is like Tiger Woods. Charlie has straight lower limb bones, no bony versions or torsions, great feet, he is slender, excellent muscle structure, and has tons of natural ability.  If you have ever seen him run it is like watching water flow. Charlie is as a runner just like Tiger is as a golfing Ferrari. They both happened to pick a sport that their body’s were perfectly suited for, then they had the passion for that sport, were lucky to have found it at a young age, and they worked harder than anyone else at their sport.  Anatomy, a bit of luck in sport choice early on, a physiology that paired well with the anatomy, and a work ethic to trump anyone. Being the best is a combination of things. You can have all the desire in the world as a runner or athlete but if you do not have the magic mixture of all things necessary you might just be average instead of extraordinary. 

Do you get injured all the time when you run ? How are your feet, are they competent or are they flat ? Do your tibias bow like a weathered piece of lumber ?  Are your knees kinked inwards (genu valgum) ? Are you tall and thin or are you build like a line backer ?  In other words, are you suited to be a distance runner or marathoner ? Or should you be happy with three to four 5k runs a week and be happy you can run those smaller distances rather than spend every 2 weeks in the therapists office getting a foot fixed, an orthotic tweaked, kinesiotape on a knee, more rehab. Do you spend more time icing your injuries and doing pre-run theapeutic exercises and foam rolling than you do running ? 

If this is you. God bless your dedicated heart. But maybe you should put on your Speedo and go for a swim.  I put my NBA dreams on hold long ago after realizing that at 5'8" it just wasnt going to happen. I picked up golf and did much better at that game in a shorter period of time than all the work on my hoop dreams.  I would fathom to say I should have picked up ping-pong long ago as a child. Perhaps I would be world champ by this time.

Run, bike, swim, hoops, golf…..whatever your passion. There is nothing wrong with having heart and grinding it out daily to be a runner or do whatever your sport happens to be.  Just never lose sight of the obvious. Maybe you need to look past your heart and look in the mirror and your mounting therapy bills and make some adjustments to your running dreams. Some of my best Triathletes were awesome runners at one time … .  when we could get them healthy to a start line line.  The problem was that they had more unused race bibs than completed races. They were in my office regularly pleading me to fix them up so they could get their training in so they could get to race day. However, after much psychoanalysis and reality talking we finally got through to some of the best athletes. Once we switched them to triathlons where they could moderate the runs and hit some alternative sports that did not play up their challenged race anatomy, they rose to the top and rarely had to hand off a race bib to a friend who was healthy.  And they are happier.  I see them far less in my office and far more at the finish lines with a huge smile.

Do some honest inventory of your body.  Sometimes a Speedo just makes sense, well, sort of. If you catch our drift.

Dr. Shawn Allen, The Gait Guys