You Can Run Pain Free

Jannine Myers

You may have noticed that I’ve been focusing quite a bit lately on injury prevention; that’s because I’m getting older and aches and pains seem to be much more prevalent. Admittedly, I’ve never been much of a stickler for post-run stretching, and nor have I ever consistently committed to a proper warm-up and/or run-specific strength routine, but I think these things are going to become necessary if I wish to continue running.

With so many opinions out there on the “best” methods of injury prevention, I figured I’d start with techniques that appear to be working well for others. That’s where Physiotherapist Brad Beer comes in; in his Best Selling book You Can Run Pain Free, he boasts of impressive testimonies from both recreational and professional runners who claim his teachings and recommendations have led to faster and pain-free running.

Beer, who incidentally is also an accomplished triathlete and runner, advocates the following 5-step-guide:

1.Understand your running body

There are, according to Beer, three types of running bodies, at least in terms of genetic mobility:

  • Floppys – these are the runners who tend to have a lot of elasticity around their joints, and hence a much wider range of motion than the average person. When they run however, the increased movement in and around their joints may create greater instability and therefore a higher risk of injury.
  • Stiffys – no need to tell you who the stiffys are; you’ll know if you are one! Beer suggests that stiffys spend more time stretching than strengthening. Some strength exercises are obviously important, but the greater focus should be on regular stretching.
  • Flippys – and then there are the runners who are neither too floppy nor too stiff. You’ll need to read the book to see what Beer says about this group (he didn’t spend much time addressing them in his podcast interview).

Once you understand your running body, says Beer, you’ll better understand how to maximize your time and focus on the specific exercises and preventative measures best suited for you.

2. Run with great technique 

Beer believes that running with great form and technique is a learned skill, and one that most runners are unaware of. It’s not until a runner actually sees him or herself running – on video, for example – that a more realistic perception of their running form is realized. The first step then, is to obviously start with a video analysis.

A video analysis can reveal things like body posture while running, foot placement when landing, as well as cadence (number of times your foot strikes the ground per minute). These are all very important since running places such a huge load on the lower limbs. Take an hour-long run for example; at approximately 90 steps per minute per foot, that’s 5400 single leg hops!

The main things to keep in mind when attempting to run with great technique, are the following:

  • Maintain a slightly forward lean; sounds obvious but a lot of runners tend to lean backwards, as in the image below. A backward lean is typically seen in runners who over-stride and end up with their foot landing in front of their body. The problem with over-striding is that it places the body in a position that goes against gravity, thereby slowing the runner down. Worse still, it creates a foot-strike with braking impact that over time can lead to injury (less than 90 steps per minute per foot is over-striding, so count your foot-strikes the next time you go out to run).

Run Pain Free.indd

  • Project body upwards and look straight ahead versus down at the ground (I made a conscious effort to practice this on my run yesterday and was surprised at how difficult it actually was).
  • Try to aim for a mid-foot landing; the best way to achieve a mid-to-forefoot landing is to get your cadence right, i.e. 90 steps per minute (you can read Brad’s explanation here)

3. Run in the best shoes for you!

It’s not really possible to identify which shoes are best for you without first establishing your body type and how your running technique is; do these things first and then seek advice from a shoe specialist.

4. Importance of hip stability

Hip stability has much to do with core stability and ensuring that all the muscles and rotators around the hips are nice and strong. Unfortunately, that is not the case with many runners, and hip instability is one of the most common contributing factors to running injuries. As runners bounce from side to side and eventually become fatigued, their pelvis collapses, creating an adverse effect down the entire length of the lower limbs.

The fire hydrant is a great starting point for building hip strength and stability; aim for 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each leg, and progress to 36 repetitions as competency is achieved.

5. Power of rest

Running tends to attract A-Type personalities, which means that there are lots of runners out there with “run-more-do-more” mentalities. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to work hard to achieve goals, but when rest is sacrificed there’s a greater risk of injury or illness occurring. The best way to reduce that risk is to follow training programs that include deliberate and planned recovery workouts between hard sessions, and if necessary, days of complete rest.

If you practice all five of these preventative measures, and apply the same level of dedication to them as you do to your running, Beer believes you will be able to enjoy pain-free and faster running.

To get your copy of Brad Beer’s book and learn more about his 5-step method, visit the Amazon store here.


Why Do We Eat “This” When We Know We Should Eat “That?”

Jannine Myers

One of the greatest challenges for so many people, is consistently making healthy food choices. No matter how strong the desire to stop buying drive-by sodas or sweetened lattes, or to resist late-night snacking temptations, it seems that the foods and drinks we really want to avoid are the ones we continue to eat.

Dr. Douglas Lisle, coauthor of The Pleasure Trap gives the following TedX talk to help us understand why it’s so hard to stop doing what we don’t want to do.

If you didn’t have time to watch the video, here’s a recap of his talk:

The male shrike is a songbird that kills it’s prey – typically small rodents, other birds, and insects – and then impales them on tree spikes inside their territory. Females eventually appear, and after a quick analysis, will mate with the male who has the largest catch of prey. Why is this significant? Because the entire orchestration of how the shrike goes about his business has helped psychologists to answer what has been a very puzzling question:

  1. If people were intelligent, alert, and conscientious enough, and if they heard the right messages about health and the right path to take, why is it so hard to choose that path?

The shrike has strong instincts, influenced by his genetic code but activated by environmental cues – cues that lead him to think, then feel, and then finally respond. What he ultimately seeks is sexual pleasure, not just because it’s rewarding but because it’s also associated with survival and reproduction.

All creatures seek the same thing; embedded in our genetic code is a motivational system comprised of three components that work together to influence our behavior towards an end result that’s associated with gene survival. The three components are:

  1. Pleasure – food and sex
  2. Avoidance of pain
  3. Energy Conservation

The key objective for all creatures, including humans, is to seek pleasure as much as possible, while staying alert to cues that indicate that pain is present and/or an energy cost is involved.

Getting back to the shrike again; imagine if the shrike were encaged and within his reach were two buttons that led to two different outcomes. One of the buttons – a blue one – would open a trap door from which a female would emerge and enter his cage. The other button – a red one -would result in the release of a cocaine-filled pipe that would insert directly into his head and drive pleasure to the very core of his brain. The red button is the one he will choose, because every time he hits it, his pleasure center will be activated by the flooding of dopamine. Both options provide pleasure but the one that releases dopamine, and hence the sensation of excitement and euphoria, is more efficient.

The problem with the above scenario, is that the shrike was misled by an unnatural stimulus that caused him to think and feel that he was making the “right” choice; that he was being extremely biologically successful, when in fact he was behaving self-destructively.

We are no different to the shrike! We live in a world where our environment has been tainted with all kinds of “super-normal” stimuli. Our food supply consists of products that are designed to fool our senses so that we’ll keep choosing them over and over again.

That’s where the Dietary Pleasure Trap comes into play:


The Dietary Pleasure Trap contains five phases:

  • Phase One – illustrates how we should relate to food. Enjoyment of food should fall within normal parameters.
  • Phase Two – our tastebuds are introduced to “super-normal” foods; foods that give more calories/energy per bite and consequently provide more pleasure.
  • Phase Three – we eventually habituate to the abnormal stimuli. In other words, our brain and censors are eventually dulled and we end up getting the same amount of pleasure that we used to experience in Phase One, except that now we are used to eating mostly junk food.
  • Phase Four – our habitual junk food choices result in obesity, heart disease, and other serious illnesses, and so now we start to pay attention to all the health specialists who are saying that we need to move in “this direction” if we wish to regain our health. So we try to change direction and re-introduce wholesome and healthy foods to our diet.
  • Phase Five – this is the phase that leads to recovery, however this phase takes several weeks and very few will go the distance.

And this brings us back to the question we started with: why is it so hard to do the right thing? Why do so few people make it successfully through the fifth phase of recovery; that part of the trap where following the right path and making healthier food choices is best for us? It’s simple: we live in a modern world that releases into our environment cues that fool our instincts, and lure us into the Pleasure Trap.

So, how does one get out of the trap?

Dr. Lisle offers a couple of tricks:

  1. The water trick – drink only water for a period of 24 hours straight; this should help the tastebuds to increase sensitivity and allow for a favorable reintroduction of healthy food.
  2. The juice fast – drink only fruit and vegetable juices for several days; this should help to re-set the fat and salt receptors so that tastebud sensitivity is recovered.

These are just ways to get you started and help lead you out of the trap; remember – it takes several weeks to make it through the Recovery Phase. But, if you have the drive and willpower to endure, your body will eventually re-set itself and you’ll find that eating wholesome and healthy foods is much more pleasurable than eating the kinds of overly processed foods that we were never designed to crave.

Additionally, Dr. Lisle says that there are numerous support groups and websites available to assist you with recovery efforts:

True North Health

Dr. Neal Barnard

T. Colin Campbell

Engine2 Diet



Are Restorative Exercises Something Runners Should Learn About?

Jannine Myers

Kristin Marvin is a Performance Recovery Specialist who challenges mainstream approaches to improved performance and recovery. Marvin is one of a growing number of specialists teaching what is called Restorative Exercise (also known as Nutritious Movement).

When runners are asked to describe what their ideal conditions for optimal recovery are, Marvin says that they’ll typically refer to one or all of the following:

  • Nutrition
  • Sleep
  • Post-run stretching
  • Alternative therapies such as massage and chiropractic adjustments

These are all important, but Marvin and other specialists trained in her profession encourage clients to focus more on the non-running hours of life – which, for most runners, equates to about 23 hours. It’s everything a runner does outside of running, says Marvin, that more than likely impedes recovery efforts and causes running injuries.

Two things in particular (and there are several other contributing factors) that Marvin believes significantly adds to delayed recovery and greater risk of injury, is a lack of mobility, and the all-day-every-day wearing of shoes.

With regards to mobility, Marvin claims that besides the daily hour or two of running each day, most runners spend the rest of the day in a sedentary position; she referred to such runners as being “actively sedentary,” a term used to describe a person who moves on average about 4% of the time and remains sedentary the remainder of the time.

The problem with so much time spent sitting, is that our bodies have become accustomed to less movement and as much as we dislike it, the consequence is daily muscular aches and pains. In turn, our ability to walk, run, and move is hindered, causing further damage since our bodies are not functioning as they should.

Compounding this problem, says Marvin, is the fact that we wear shoes all day; our feet make up 25% of our muscular skeletal system (they contain a lot of vasculature; they provide sensory and proprioception information; and they push blood back to the heart), so when we cast them in shoes for long periods of time we make them susceptible to weakened sensitivity and mobility, as well as loss of intrinsic muscle. Restorative Exercise specialists believe that if your feet are weak, then many other parts of your body will also be weak.

So what should runners do to improve recovery and reduce injury risk, especially if lifestyle and job situations make it difficult to walk around barefoot, or to walk around much at all?According to Marvin, we can start by incorporating short bouts of activity frequently throughout the day. Any opportunity to take a break from work or any other type of sedentary activity should be taken advantage of; move as often as possible and in as many different ways as possible.

And if you must wear shoes, she says, then make sure that all of your shoes fit properly. You can do that by tracing your feet on paper, cutting it out, and then placing the paper inside your shoes; if any part of the paper comes up on the sides, the front, or the back, then it’s time for those shoes to go!

There is much more to be said about Restorative Exercise, but I’ll leave you to do your own further research.

  • “All your trillions of cells talk; every single move you make [or don’t make] has a significant impact on today and tomorrow……” Kristen Marvin



Some useful links:

Hitting The Wall Might Just Be An Excuse For Quitting

Jannine Myers


This week’s post is one that will hopefully give you something to think about the next time you run an endurance race and encounter the dreaded “wall.” For those of you not yet familiar with the term “hitting the wall” (or “bonking”), it refers to a point in a race where an athlete suddenly loses energy and consequently slows down or gives up altogether.

Up until recently the general consensus has been that race exhaustion, followed by a decline in performance, is attributed to physiological factors (specifically, depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles). But new research suggests that there is also a significant psychological component at play, and that with the right type of brain-training it might be possible to override sensations of fatigue and discomfort. A tired runner, for example, could potentially ignore perceived threats of “bonking” and continue to perform well all the way to the finish line.

Dr. Samuele Marcora is the exercise physiologist leading the argument that endurance fatigue is nothing more than a perceived state of mind. He explains that under extreme conditions, as when we exert ourselves physically for an extended period of time, our brains attempt to direct our decision-making to prevent us from compromising our ability to survive. Hence, an athlete may think that he or she is exhausted, when really there is enough energy tucked away in reserve to keep going.

The good news then – or bad, depending on how you look at it – is that the wall is probably as high or as low as you want it to be. You can decide that it’s low enough to get over, in which case you’ll have to get serious about devoting time to mental training. Or, you can decide that it’s too high, but now that you’ve read this post you’ll be making that choice knowing that Dr. Marcora says you’re actually choosing to be a quitter! 

[For more detailed information about Dr. Marcora’s research, read this article]