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Don't Run For Fun

Rich O'Neill, Functional Fitness
Rich O'Neill, Functional Fitness
Sam Iannetta's Functional Fitness and Wellness center

Last week I was in Orlando, Florida and participated in a sanctioned event for a group of high level business officers. The event was a "Fun Run" which was a mile long run/walk around a resort complex parking lot. It was a cool, brisk morning and the 7am start time wasn't ideal, but everyone got up and got out there. It was a great event that helped build comradery among the participants. Why am I writing a blog about a one mile walk/jog? The reason is because I was appalled at how many correctable movement dysfunctions there were in both the runners and the walkers. For starters, we're talking about desk workers. Probably not the ideal population of people to invite on a jog. Due to the nature of their work, they tend to spend enormous periods of time seated and in front of computers which is just horrible for spinal alignment and pelvic function. Not to mention the issues that come up with neck/shoulders that usually result in pain.

As I was walking the event, I was pointing out to my girlfriend how the two women in front of us had entirely different patterns of muscle recruitment, and how both patterns were equally dysfunctional. The women on our left was a classic ectomorph. Thin, long legs, very lean with a notable lack of quality lean mass. The other woman was more of the endomorphic body type. Globular, with a round abdomen, short thick arms and legs with higher amounts of fat on the upper arms and thighs. Two distinctly different body types no doubt. The ectomorphic woman had very little ankle stability and we could see her foot diving in towards her inner ankle each time her foot struck the ground. Her knees were also aligned more towards her inner thigh and her snug medial hamstring locked everything down to the inside. As a result of this, guess what? She had no butt! Her pelvic positioning was being manipulated so much by her leg discrepancies that her glutes had no way to fire and in turn, no way to develop. I explained how there was very little chance for her to avoid back pain if her gluteals couldn't develop and support her lower spine. From the belt up, her upper body was all over the place rotating in every direction because she lacked quality muscle mass to contain her joints in the correct configuration. The other woman, the endomorph had great stability at her ankles, the problem existed in her upper body where her shoulders were literally locked in place inhibiting her arm swing and her midsection was so thick that there was virtually no rotation in her hips and pelvis as she moved. Looking at her feet, I saw a big problem with the position of her foot at the point of contact. Heavier individuals tend to have feet that externally rotate and this causes the foot to "roll out" toward the outside of her shoe every time her foot lands while walking. Knowing about ground reactive forces and how they apply to foot and ankle dysfunction, I explained how even while walking, we have one and a half times bodyweight being absorbed into the foot and ankle with each step. If this alignment pattern goes uncorrected and that individual decides to go jogging, the amount force increases to three to four times bodyweight with each step. God forbid they decide to jump, the amount of force upon landing reaches nearly ten times bodyweight! That's unbelievable. Hopefully now you can see why I take such a rigid stance on joint position and alignment PRIOR to adding load.

Regardless of what our body type is, the need for proper bio-alignment as it pertains to longevity, is absolutely necessary for everyone. What was very obvious with every participant in the Fun Run, was the consciousness that, "it's only walking" or, "it's just an easy jog" and sadly this is the start of the issue. If we don't respect all forms of movement as necessitating proper alignment and joint function, we not only miss an opportunity to reinforce correct patterns, we actually create excess wear and degradation on joints. I believe that most of these issues are correctable with the right exercises and identification. But if we just think that walking or jogging is merely a benign activity that doesn't require heavy energy output, or might be "low impact", then we're missing the big picture. Big time.

To make matters worse, the ectomorph body type is often emulated by women because they tend to be very petite and lean. In my opinion, people who strive to attain a certain look or body type, may unexpectedly acquire the movement dysfunctions that go along with that body type. The point to this whole thing is that we should take whatever body type we were given, and learn to move properly so that we can eliminate many of the problems that we see people suffering from as they age. For instance, if someone spends a lifetime sitting at a desk and not strength training, odds are good their power in their lower body will deteriorate and they may need assistance getting out of a chair or getting off of a toilet. If we decide we want to hike, jog or just walk for recreation, we should be certain that our ankle range of motion is optimal and that our foot alignment is ideal. Otherwise we run the great risk of lower back issues based on the connectivity of muscles from the foot that influence the hips and pelvis.

This is precisely why all individuals would benefit greatly from a Functional Analysis at Functional Fitness in Boulder, Colorado. At our center, founder Sam Iannetta has developed and trained me for the last ten plus years in a system that analyzes and identifies movement discrepancies and in turn creates exercise programs to correct those dysfunctions. Whether it's the everyday person eager to hit the hiking trails after a long, cold winter, or the elite level runner looking to amp up his/her training in preparation for the Bolder Boulder, if we just head out there we could do some serious damage. It's nearly impossible these days to find a new client arrive at our center needing relief from back pain and find their feet in great alignment and their walking mechanics free of any dysfunctions. The two clearly go hand in hand, and the right exercise professional can troubleshoot and correct the basic problems that we all have. So do yourself a favor and seek out a true professional, like those of us at Functional Fitness, to do an assessment of your movement before you go out on a "Fun Run." You'll be able to avoid the painful movement related problems that you're bound to encounter. For more information on Functional Fitness, visit For more information on smart exercise and wellness, follow @Rich1ill. Thanks!