This post is split into two parts and contains some challenges. The first challenge is that I would like you to click on this link documentarymania.com/player... It should take you to a video from Dr Michael Mosley’s popular series, The Truth About Getting Fit. For the challenge, I want you to just watch an excerpt from 38mins to approximately 45mins, which includes an experiment which comes up with a surprising and counterintuitive conclusion. The rest of the video may be of interest, but I believe that this section can justifiably be taken out of context…….and it is about running.
The reasons will become clear later, I hope, so please, don’t read any further until you have watched the video.
When I was originally asked to become a mentor on this forum, about four and a half years ago, I was keen to create some reference resources for the forum and I suggested what has become the FAQ POSTS healthunlocked.com/couchto5... which are a collection of posts covering discreet subjects and frequent queries, as much to save us writing the same old replies to the same old questions, over and over again, as it was to create a repository of knowledge. It was never my intention that these would all be written by me, but despite my challenges to various others, to date, only one other individual has written a piece specifically for the FAQs, although I have requisitioned a few posts with the writers’ permissions.
Once I was asked by pianoteacher if I would write a piece about losing weight and running. I declined, pointing out that I had never been overweight nor ever been on a “diet”, therefore considered myself wholly unqualified to write this and challenged her to write it, which she did most successfully. healthunlocked.com/couchto5...
So my second challenge is to ask any of you, who have the desire, to write a post to be included in the FAQs. Ideally it should arise from a topic that is frequently discussed on the forum, but if it is imparting clear information about any specific running related subject, it would be helpful. Please remember that this is the C25k forum and advice needs to be appropriate for new runners. Topics that I feel particularly ill equipped to write about are: Treadmills, Races, running clothes, a guide to using HRMs, barefoot running shoes and barefoot running, comparison of tracking apps and the mystery that I referred to in the Running Shoe FAQ, where do the boulders that appear in your shoe come from and where do they go when you take your shoe off to investigate?
I ran the first few FAQs past the admin team and they usefully pointed out required corrections or clarifications and it might be wise to do this with any future contributions. You can PM your drafts to me if you wish, or you can put a post straight onto the forum and if it is well received then it can be included in the FAQs, which is, after all, just a list of posts.
The content needs to be able to be backed up by references and citations, although they don’t always need to be included, although further reading and reference is always useful. Don’t put in anything that is going to date unhelpfully. Be prepared to edit your post in future as links will become inactive and received opinions can change.
Exchange of information is one of the joys of this forum. We have diverse life experiences, knowledge and perspectives and a different view of an issue can create a lightbulb moment, sometimes exposing great voids in our own interpretation of the world. Knowledge is power.
There may well be such great voids in my comprehension, because that video that I asked you to watch has left me stumped. It includes an eminent professor of Sports Science, is presented by the affable and reliable Dr Michael Mosley and was originally broadcast by the august British Broadcasting Corporation, so surely it is science that we can all trust?
I suspect, wholly unscientifically, that the majority of viewers will conclude that it proves that walking does more harm than running………I know it doesn’t actually say that. The statistical proof is that “per unit of ground covered, walking exerts more stresses than running”.
Personally, I cannot get beyond thinking that it is just a statistical party trick, wrapped up in an ultrathin veneer of modern science, which is at best misleading and at worst, downright dangerous. ……………….but maybe I have misunderstood some fundamentals, after all, I have had no scientific or statistical training since my O levels………over 50 years ago.
A study of one man, with pronounced heel strike, walking across a room, followed by the same man, still with pronounced heel strike, running across a room cannot, scientifically produce conclusions that can be applied to the whole population, regardless of the motion capture technology, computer generated image overlay of stresses and those techy graphs…….that somehow "prove" a result.
Let’s look at the graphs. The line graph is within my comprehension and displays, as one might expect, that the peak stress loads are far greater for running than for walking, but also that the duration of ground contact is far longer when walking. My brain can cope with that. The block graph that is then produced is what confounds me and what I sincerely hope some member of this forum can educate me about. I assume that an average (either mean or median) is combined with a calculation of ground covered per stride to arrive at the force per metre displayed in the block graph, which magically shows that, per metre, walking creates more stresses than running……….but what does that actually prove?
At 42.05, in the video, Dr Mosley challenges the counterintuitive result by saying that surely, if I punched you hard in the face, it would do more damage overall than hitting you several times gently for slightly longer contact time.
At this point, having watched it several times, I almost convince myself that I see a seed of scepticism in Mosley’s eye…..but I know how dangerous it is to project subjectivity into this.
Instead of sticking with Mosley’s analogy, Professor Brewer makes a leap by saying that the knee is perfectly “designed” (alarm bells for me!) to absorb these peak stresses.
My belief is that the body is perfectly evolved to absorb mean or median loads, whether walking or running. However it is generally not mean or median loads which cause issues for runners. It is the short sharp peak loads of running that, for those whose bodies are not conditioned to handle those loads, causes damage and symptoms such as knee pain and shin splints.
By extension, this result seems to suggest that a runner can reduce the loads by being airborne longer, perhaps by increasing speed and lengthening stride………...actually the opposite of the advice given by most acknowledged experts and certainly not what we would advise, on this forum, to anyone suffering from knee or shin pain.
Can anyone explain to me how “per unit covered, walking creates more stresses than running” can be usefully utilised by a runner in their training?
Maybe, because of a gap in my understanding, the only thing this “science” proves to me is that statistics can prove anything, however counterintuitive. To me this means that we all have to discriminate and question our sources, even Doctors, Professors and the BBC.
I hope this illustrates the challenge that writing an FAQ Post raises. Source materials need to be scrutinised critically, otherwise we can be perpetuating half truths and downright lies or just misleading and unhelpful facts, even if we believe the sources themselves to be reputable.
To me the video seems like a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes, with me cast in the role of a simple and naive young boy. I would dearly love someone to provide information that enables me to see this through a different lens, even if it proves me to be a simple and ignorant old man. Going back to the title of this post, I believe we learn, not by accumulating facts, but by questioning the veracity of those facts, by challenging the status quo and by helping one another to understand what we do not understand.
We live in a world now where knowing and facing up to the truth of what the next few decades will wreak on us is vital. Trust in politicians, of all political persuasions, is probably at an all time low so we have to understand, to the best of our abilities, the real science that may be our saviour. We all have to keep questioning. We all have to keep learning.
I look forward to your replies.