Avoid Injuries: Run from Gators

Yup, I’d run faster, faced with this dude. (Image via Wikipedia.)

We hear so much about repetitive-stress injuries, like carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, or the latest, iPod finger.   For runners, just about any injury could be called a RSI, because what is running but repetitive stress, both literal and figurative?  As the late, great Bill Bowerman said, all training can be summarized in this:  “Stress. Recover. Improve.”

Too much stress on any body part, of course, can have catastrophic consequences … not necessarily catastrophic as in “surgery and six months of recovery” but as in “hurts-like-hell  and can’t-run-for-awhile.”     Every long-term runner comes up with her own tricks to stay off the injured list.  One of mine is this:   Every now and then, run from an alligator.

Anyone who’s ever lived near Florida knows the old lore that alligators and crocodiles can’t run crookedly, and so if you’re ever chased by a large, scary reptile, run zigzag to get away.   This is also useful when you’re running away from large, scary repetitive-stress injuries.

Running is necessarily linear, but that doesn’t mean we can’t run from gators, meaning, run laterally.   Coaches and trainers advise us to shake up our workouts, bust out of the same old boring routines, so most of us know to do long slow runs and short fast sprints.  Makes sense to also alter our direction occasionally, too,  like football players do in their lateral drills.

This row of trees is perfect for running in and out.

Whenever I find a long line of trees or evenly spaced rocks, I stop running straight and run in an S-wave through them.    To the sedentary passerby, I might appear in need of involuntary hospitalization, but so far, I’ve been speedy enough to get away before anyone summons men in white coats. This exercise slows me down, yes, but just a little.  Most importantly, it makes my running more fluid and flexible, and keeps me from being too repetitively stressed, particularly on long runs.

If you’ve no trees or rocks to run around, you can do your “S-work” on any yellow line in the road. Or any imaginary line in your head, for that matter.

I have no coaching credentials, like Bowerman or our own Licorice, but I do have 25-plus years of running experience under my fuel belt,  and for the most part, it’s been injury free.  Running from gators hasn’t hurt me, and it’s quite possible — I’d say likely — that it’s helped.

Oh, by the way, if you do ever see a ‘gator, this says the zigzag thing is a myth.  Just run away as fast as you can!



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I'm a single mother of four who has been running injury-free for 27 years, astonishingly without ever losing any weight. I'm a writer and editor near Boston, and author of "Honey, Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner."

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