Taking the Fall

StickmanFallingI was out running this morning with my friend Jonathan. We were doing a relaxed pace on the Cambridge side of the Charles River. It was a nice morning – sunny and not too warm. Perfect for the end of August! Lot’s of people running as students arrived back in town.   We passed MIT and took a fork down to the river where the path narrows to single file. We were talking about Jonathan’s kids and what they were up to. I was thinking about that and just a couple steps behind him and did not see a root sticking up several inches. Down I went – hard! And with full force as I had lifted off the ground. Remarkably, I landed with my weight distributed pretty evenly between my knee, hip, shoulder, and arm – a good portion of the kinetic chain.  Fortunately it was on dirt.

As I laid there for a minute or so, with the wind knocked out and pain in all parts hitting the ground, I reflected on a fall almost exactly a year before when I tried hurdling over a chain fence. That incident was on asphalt and led to a trip to an orthopedic to determine whether I had broken something and/or torn a meniscus. Turned out I cracked a rib which took nearly three months to fully resolve. Suffice it to say, that fall set my training back about six weeks and effectively killed chances for a strong fall racing season. Jonathan helped me up and the pain subsided as I began walking with blood oozing from my knee and elbow. We started jogging, reached a place to wash the wounds, and then did another couple miles to finish the run.  At least it seemed I was not going to repeat last year’s malady.

There’s always something to learn and I have three takeaways. One, a reminder to Pay Attention! I should have kept a few more feet between us. I was effectively blind to the running surface, which would be OK on a track, but not a dirt path with ruts and roots. This carries over to being on a bike or even crossing the street. Look twice and then look again! Two, it reinforced my belief in the importance of regular strength and cross training.   I prescribe to my clients at least three days a week with weights and another two or three with body weight exercises, cross training, and stretching. I know some view this as excessive but the payoff comes in various ways. One, is visual — strength and tone. But for runners, perhaps more important is resiliency. In addition to vital protection from overuse-type injuries, this work helps us withstand or minimize the damage from a fall or twisting an ankle on uneven surfaces. In short, these exercises give us a better chance of staying in the game. Three, it served as a wake-up to spend more time on balance exercises and leg lift, things Jonathan pointed out later. These skills are enhanced through form drills and trail running, among other things. Surely if I had seen the root, I would have stepped over it. But when we miss something, then balance becomes our last resort, hopefully enabling us to regroup, catch ourselves, and avoid a fall.

As the day progressed, the parts hit became a little sore. I made an appointment to see my chiropractor, Mike Santipadri, to check my alignment. Anything out of whack along the kinetic chain can cause problems. It turned out my shoulder had taken the brunt and Mike worked out the kinks.   All in all a bullet dodged. And as I crossed a busy Beacon Street on the way home, I looked both directions — three times!

Happy trails to you – and watch out for those roots!

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