Lately as I’ve interviewed runners who want to work with me, I’ve heard a lot of stories that end with the phrase “…and then, WHAM!”
It’s a funny, not-so-funny coincidence.
Here’s how the stories go.
They tell me things started to go wrong with their running but they could kind of manage it.
For instance a hamstring problem that kept coming back every time the mileage went up.
Or a knee problem that came and went but made it impossible to really train.
Or an IT band never really stopped twinging even though regular foam rolling kept it from getting too bad.
And then–oh joy!–they found the injured runner’s holy grail: a seemingly magic stretch that wiped the problem out. Thrilled, they dug gleefully into their training…
…and then WHAM.
Something else blew out completely and suddenly they couldn’t even run.
Though it feels like a thunderbolt from an angry god when that happens, it’s not a vengeful deity they’ve failed to respect, it’s all those warning signs their bodies were giving them.
Let me explain.
Years ago I saw a film clip of a skateboarder trying to solve a frustrating, persistent problem.
The guy is up on a roof, trying to skate down a steep slope and onto a flat section. The arrangement looks sort of a like a ramp, except it isn’t curved. (Perhaps you’re already thinking “uh-oh.”)
He skates down the steep bit, but every time he hits the seam where it joins the flat part, he loses control and the board flies out from under him to one side or the other.
It seems really tricky to get the skateboard to go straight so it won’t fly sideways when he hits the flat. But he is determined. He tries over and over, aiming himself ever more carefully straight down.
And then finally he gets it. His setup is perfect, he shoots straight down. But when he hits the flat roof…WHAM!
Instead of rolling smoothly onto it, the skateboard simply stops dead.
Momentum carries the skater a few yards farther, skidding on his shoulder and face. It isn’t pretty.
As it turns out, the angle of the slope meeting the flat section was too sharp for the skateboard to handle.
Moral of the story: when something just won’t seem to work no matter what you try, there’s often a fatal flaw in what you’re trying to do.
Overall body maintenance is important. But you should be grateful you can’t quite find the fix that spot-cures your injury, because the problem wasn’t in that spot–it’s how you’re moving your entire body. Everything needs to shift.
It’s super-frustrating to try over and over again to fix that one area–that hamstring or knee or IT band. But if you do find a stretch that fixed only that, without changing anything else, you disable the pressure valve that keeps you from being even more seriously injured by your imbalanced movement.
You’ve just succeeded in aiming your skateboard straight down the roof.
Instead, avoid the crash. Take your frustrating problems as a sign that your technique needs an overhaul–everything needs to change.
My Mind Your Running Challenge was designed to help you feel how to shift everything, and it’ll give you a start down the right road. It’s free and takes just 10 minutes a day for one week. Sign up for it here.
(Already tried the challenge and want to go deeper? Then learn more about working with me.)
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Jae Gruenke, GCFP, is a running technique expert and Feldenkrais Practitioner. Known as a “running form guru,” she is the Founder and CEO of The Balanced Runner™ in New York City and The Balanced Runner UK. She has helped runners from beginner to Olympian improve their form to become pain-free, economical, and fast.