Immediately following last week’s winter storm Thor, was the annual Running Medicine Conference on the campus of UVA in Charlottesville, VA. While there were multiple great lectures presented by various leaders in their fields of study, here are a few highlights I found particularly interesting:
1. Vegans and Vegetarians really can exercise.
Dr. Martin Katz, MD of Revolution Health Care in Scottsville, VA gave a very intriguing lecture about the benefits of a “plant strong” diet. Apparently in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there was a common belief that vegans and vegetarians are unable to exercise due to lack of protein and therefore not enough strength to perform. Not only was this theory proven wrong, but in recent years, studies are beginning to show how beneficial plants can be for everyone including athletes. The man pictured above is Jim Morris, a 77 year-old body-building vegan. That’s right, 77 years-old and a vegan. Jim is just one example of athletes excelling in their sport while maintaining a vegetable based diet. During the lecture, Dr. Katz was not promoting that everyone be vegetarian but rather everyone attempt to maintain what he considers “plant strong” diets. To back up his plea, Dr. Katz listed out study after study showing the varying beneficial affects of various foods on the body. One study in particular showed that plant based foods are 100 times stronger than animal based foods in terms of antioxidants. Another showed that tart cherry juice concentrate can be effective in preventing muscle tissue damage and decrease pain. Legumes appear to be another wonder food in their ability to block free radicals in the body which can lead to chronic diseases. The list of studies was seemingly endless but the simple takeaway was increase the amount of plants you incorporate in your diet.
2. 50 % of runners will experience an injury this year.
Dr. Reed Ferber, PhD, ATC from the University of Calgary analyzes data concerning walking and running mechanics from all over the world. Since 1990, the injury rate in running remains the same at 50%. The average injured runner also then buys 2.2 pairs of shoes prior to seeking medical treatment. Dr. Ferber’s goal is to reduce that rate by 5% which would result in an estimated savings of $2.2 billion dollars in fees associated with treating running related injuries. While he has not found a magic cure or preventative measure to decrease the injury rate, one bit of information that he continues to focus on is that instability in the pelvis leads to increased variability in running form which can then result in injury. Future blog posts will delve deeper into some of Dr. Ferber’s findings but one simple take away is the addition of “daily positive stress” in our lives. Instead of overloading our system with negative stress which may result from poor posture in sitting or running with bad mechanics, we need to add a positive stressor such as squats with correct form or climbing stairs to build proper strength.
3. Strong force levers require stable surfaces
As usual, Jay Dicharry, PT of REP lab in Bend OR gave a tremendous presentation about the importance of pelvic stability in healthy running. Our legs are very strong levers that apply a lot of force to our body while running. It is paramount that our bodies be able to accept these forces, otherwise injures occur. Future blog posts will discuss this in further detail. For now, here is a visual to better understand this principle. We all need to build strong foundations for great bridges to be better runners.