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Paleo Running-Part I,Motivation

February 22, 2011

Today’s discussion will take a look at why our paleo ancestors ran, and why people run today. What inspired the Caveman to run? That’s easy. He was either 1. chasing food or 2. trying to avoid becoming food.Why else in his right mind would he need to run? Calories and strength were precious back then; no need to waste either. Why do people run today? That’s much harder to ascertain. Some do it for “fun”, some do it as a counterbalance to eating too much food, some get paid to do it, others do it for a sense of accomplishment. Some people don’t know why they do it, they just do it. If a modern runner were transported back in time and happened to pass by Cavemen on a training run, the paleo beings would likely scratch their heads, or more likely start looking for what was chasing the runner. We can see this behavior in modern times. Colleen always tells the story of a group of indigenous natives from South America that visited New York . When they went to Central Park and saw people endlessly running around in circles they were immensely perplexed, and even laughed at the silly Americans. Native North Americans were known to out run deer, but even they got smart when Europeans introduced horses to the continent and they learned to harness the speed of the horse for hunting and fighting.

Unless you belong to an indigenous tribe (how did you find this blog, if so?) or find yourself stranded in the wilderness, you are very unlikely to ever run for the only two reasons we were meant to run. This doesn’t mean running can’t be enjoyable, beneficial, or useful though. As opposed to doing absolutely nothing, running, even if done improperly, will bring some degree of fitness gains. However, if you or someone you know are a “chronic runner”, I would challenge you to think differently about running. Instead of thinking about it in any of the following ways: 10k, 13.1 miles, 26.2 miles, 7:30/mile pace, top 10 age group, hill repeats, track workout, gotta run today, gotta do a long run Saturday, need better shoes, better gear, etc. etc, how about thinking about running in a more paleo sense? Don’t focus on distance, time, pace, or any other quantifiable attribute. Focus on the joy of being outside, getting fresh air, feeling the kiss of the sun, the ground float by below your feet. Go fast here, slow there. Walk a little. If you are fortunate enough to be on a cool trail like the Austin greenbelt, throw in some other exercises like rock hopping, rock shot put, tree branch pull ups, or swimming (if water is in the creek) If all you have to work with is the urban jungle, you’ll have to get creative with stairs, benches, street poles and the like. Hopefully after reading my later posts on paleo running you won’t be too concerned about shoes or gear, because you’ll either be barefoot or using something pretty minimal. The only gear you’ll ever need other than shoes is a pair of shorts, and perhaps a sports bra if you are a Cavewoman. If you want a real good workout, pretend you are chasing wild game, or wild game is chasing you. Better yet, find some real wild game. Nothing brings out the best of human performance like the worst of conditions. (Note: this is only included for humor-if you do encounter dangerous wild game, most of the time it is better not to run, unless it is a skunk) Do you see the point I’m trying to make? Running shouldn’t be about numbers or destinations. It should be about getting exercise, having fun, and being prepared to run faster than your slowest buddy in the event a hungry lion is chasing the two of you. (in the case of being in a group under attack, if you are sure you can outrun your buddy, then do it!)

If you think about it, humans were never really meant to run an arbitrary distance of 26.2 miles at a balls to the wall pace. If this were truly the case, perhaps Pheidippides wouldn’t have died from exhaustion following his run from Marathon to Athens to spread the word of Greek victory over the persians. This isn’t to say we can’t train the body for such feats, but it surely begs the question “should we?” or “is that really healthy?” People that run marathons just to say they did it might be playing to their self vanity more than anything else. At the end of the day, if the run leaves you in more pain than it does satisfaction, I would really re-evaluate your motivation for running and consider adopting a more paleo running approach.

Other thoughts and articles:

Running Happy From Running Times



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