Between the run and the walk, falls the jog

Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:58pm EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Regular, easy running for fitness can be a boon to health and wellbeing, but experts say for safety, joggers especially must keep a spring in their step and an eye on how that foot falls.

"Look out of the window and you'll see joggers with a slow and sticky rhythm, poor posture, and that heavy heel strike into the pavement," said Lee Saxby, a running coach who has worked with many an injured weekend warrior at his clinic in the West Hampstead section of London, England.

Saxby, author of a new ebook "Proprioception: Making Sense of Barefoot Running," said the three most important aspects of healthy running, whether fast or slow, are good posture, a bouncing, elastic rhythm and a forefoot landing.

"Human beings will naturally walk, sprint or run. Walking is a heel strike, running is a forefoot strike," he said. Jogging is not a slow run. Jogging is actually a different biomechanical behavior, a hybrid between a walk and a run. Distance runners never land on their heels."

What's often lost in jogging in heavily cushioned shoes, according to Saxby, is proprioception: the body's awareness of posture, movement and balance.

"There's a natural pattern that's good for you, and an unnatural pattern that's bad for you," he explained.

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, associate professor of family medicine at West Virginia University and a competitive runner for 30 years, said while human beings walk in a heel-to-toe pattern, running is really a series of short hops.

"So if you land on your fore and mid-foot you use the recoil aspect of the foot, which is designed to return energy," he said. "The benefits of a daily walk or jog are enormous, but we need to teach people good mechanics, which is not landing hard on the heel."   Continued...

<p>A man jogs with his dog on a foggy day at the beaches of Toronto, April 7, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>