Monday, February 15, 2010

Born to Run......


Recently, I read a book - " Born to Run" by Chris McDougall. It is a book about how we as humans have been engineered to run - BARE FOOT. Yes, bare foot!! Humans have been known to kill animals, before weapons for hunting were made. Did you ever think how they did it?? They used to chase the animal until it was tired and finally passed out, isn't it strange? Sounds funny but is actually true. What it really means is; that if you are hunting a deer, you chase it and just keep the poor bambi in your sight and after a few miles the deer will no longer be able to run fast and finally die. Wonder why!!! The answer is simple - to prevent overheating the body we need to have a very efficient cooling system. Animals just have only one way to cool themselves, most of them pant with their tongue out. But the great human body has an excellent cooling system. We can maintain a state of homeostasis by regulating the body temperature through sweat glands (present throughout the body). So in short animals can run faster for a shorter distance but if they are made to run for longer distance ultimately they will pass out.

Another interesting observation made in the book was it is very unlikely for us to injure our self while running barefoot vis a vis running with nice, expensive, cushioned shoes. I will not go in the physics as to how it happens, see the video below and you will understand it. The bottom line the impact on the feet is much less when we run barefoot as compared to running with cushioned shoes.

Of course to make the book exciting, Chris goes on telling us the story of Mexican tribe (Tarahumara/Raramuri) who have been running barefoot for 100's of years now. And how they run more than 100 miles a day without getting injured. The book ends in a race between ultra marathon runners in U.S and the Raramuris.

The bottom line is - we can run barefoot without injuries and in long-run the practice is better for the muscles and body. So taking Chris's advice too seriously I started running barefoot and was surprised to see the benefits. First, I noticed my speed increased, second I was able to run more efficiently i.e. getting less tired and running for a long time and last but not the least it felt great. Initially, there may be little pain in the shin muscles but eventually the feet get accustomed.

Incidentally, I found to run barefoot outdoors and protect our feet, Vibram has come out with cool shoes/sandals or whatever. These are called FIVE FINGERS ($85 dollars for a pair - kinda expensive though).

So just try running barefoot and enjoy your workout. Let me know how it feels.


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