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I don’t mean to fixate on the topic of running form, but I just want to recommend Gina Kolata’s piece in today’s New York Times, which reads a lot like a response to Chris McDougall’s recent piece (and echoes much of what I wrote a couple of days ago). Her basic point: people are desperate for advice that will “explain” how to run, when in reality the biggest is barrier is simply that running is hard (especially for people who have been inactive for years) and takes more time to adapt to than most people expect.
Researchers who have no financial ties to running programs or shoe manufacturers say that most of those complications are unnecessary and some of the advice is even risky, because it can make running harder and can increase the chance of injury. […]
“There is good evidence that your body is exquisitely lazy and will find the easiest way for you to run,” said Carl Foster, professor of exercise and sports medicine at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. […]
Running form is just one example of the confusions buffeting beginning runners. Running, said John Raglin, professor of kinesiology at Indiana University, “is so prone to these sorts of trends.”
People “will latch onto anything,” he added, and an anecdote or two about what is supposed to be an ideal running form often passes for evidence.
Kolata’s articles can sometimes seem a little nihilistic, as she writes about the surprising lack of evidence for very common treatments in sports medicine and physiotherapy, and common practices like warming up. The point isn’t that we shouldn’t do anything that isn’t “evidence-based” — life is complicated, and we inevitably have to make lots of decisions armed only with imperfect knowledge. But we should be aware of that, and not mistake our current guesses and hypotheses for “the one true way.”