‘Run to The Top’ Podcast Discover Injury Free Running
In the interview Brad unpack’s his proven 5 step method to help runner’s discover injury free running. Brad also unpacks the reason why he was compelled to write You CAN Run Pain Free, shares his own journey to injury free running, and talks about how runner’s world over can benefit from his approach to running injury-free.
Click HERE to listen to the interview.
Full interview Transcript is below:
Brad: Hip stability is a factor that every runner with running injury, it’s kind of like a never ending runway. We can always improve it.
Speaker 2: Welcome to the Runners Connect Run to the Top Podcast where it’s all about learning from the best minds in the sport so you can train smarter, stay healthy, and run faster now. Now your host, Tina Meur.
Tina: Hello. This is Tina Meur. Thank you again for joining me of the latest episode of the Runners Connect Run to the Top Podcast. Last week you heard from foot and ankle specialist Dr. Nick Campetelli. He shared some fascinating insights about avoiding injuries and how to recover faster. I know many of you got a lot out of that, and I’m sure you’re going to enjoy today’s episode too. All right.
Be honest. How many of you think that being injured is just an inevitable part of being a runner? That it’s only a matter of time until it comes to get you and when it does it’s your turn? Well, there’s sometimes it seems like luck is not on your side. If you could see me now you’d see that my hand is also raised. Even after talking to my guest today, I’m still fighting that voice in my head. It’s been drilled into us for years hasn’t it? My guest today is going to show you that not only is it possible, but it’s possible for everyone. No matter who you are, no matter what reasons you think this wouldn’t be applicable to you, it is. If you follow the 5 steps in this book you will stay healthy, and you will get faster. That’s what we all want right?
My guest today is Brad Beer. He’s the author of You Can Run Pain Free, which is the book we’re going to be talking about today. He’s the founder of POGO Physio, which is an award winning physio therapy practice. He’s done over 25,000 consultations and worked with Olympic medalists and world champions. We’re going to talk a lot about his book today, and it’s an Amazon best seller, so you’re going to be able to see why. Today we’re going to talk about why the emotional aspect of not running is often worse than the physical part of being injured. Brad shares an inspiring story of how he actually saved someone’s life by taking this part seriously. I know that’s something that we often overlook, and we often feel embarrassed about it don’t we? But it’s so true, and it’s something that really needs to be thought about more often.
Brad actually explained why cadence is so important, and explained it in a way that we can all understand. I know there’s a lot out there and it’s kind of confusing, so this should actually help to truly make you understand it. The truth behind over pronation, and how your hips are actually the real reason that you keep getting injured. I think a lot of you are going to enjoy that. I love the passion that Brad has, and hopefully after listening to this you will see that you do too. Brad has a special treat for 5 of our listeners which I will share more about at the end of the episode.
Now, that’s enough rambling from me. I know you want to hear from Brad to see what he has to say. Let’s go meet him.
Welcome to the Run to the Top Podcast Brad.
Brad: Thanks Tina. Thanks for having me.
Tina: It’s great to have you. I was just saying to Brad in the pre-interview that I love hearing the Australian accent. I’m sure some of you are going to love that too. Hopefully you can tell the distinction between our 2 accents because I get asked if I’m Australian all the time. Hopefully people can see a difference after this.
Brad: We’ll find out.
Tina: Yeah, I guess so. Let’s start with you and your background. If you want to kind of go over a brief running history of yours then we’ll kind of talk about your struggles with injuries as a junior athlete.
Brad: Certainly Tina. I like to tell runners that I’ve lived 2 lives in terms of running. 1 was my junior athletic career, which was focused on junior competitive triathlon, and the second, my now senior running career, which is a gap of around 8 years in between those. These days I’m a physio therapist running a busy practice, and with a young family. Running is still a big part of my life, but I get done what I can when I can. Incidentally my next race is in 3 weeks in New York, the New York Marathon.
Tina: Oh, I didn’t know that. That’s exciting. Cool.
Brad: Yeah, looking forward to that.
Tina: I’m sure you have some people coming up to you now if they see you.
Brad: Oh, well if you’re over there guys, pop up and say g’day.
Tina: Okay. You want to kind of tell us a little bit about, in the book, which we will talk about in just a second, you talk about struggling with injuries and how you had it a lot. You want to kind of go over some of those things and how that’s going to help you grow and find that second running life of yours?
Brad: Certainly Tina. Gosh, I grew up pretty much wanting to emulate an Australian triathlete called Brad Devon who was an international triathlon star in the 90’s. I spent my teenage years, and high school years really, just dreaming of a professional triathlon career. I set about doing what that required, which was obviously a lot of training. Fortunately my ambition was matched with a bit of natural talent in terms of endurance sports. I quickly became aware that my swim was strong, my bike was my best leg, and believe it or not my run was my worst leg. I never had a great passion for running, funnily enough, as a teenage triathlete. One of the other reasons why I didn’t enjoy the run like I did the other legs was because I was always, Tina, injured.
My parents graciously carted me along to the local physio therapy practice. I think I was there almost weekly getting some sort of predominantly running injury sorted out. All the common running injuries. I had them by the time I was about 18 or 19 before I then had my major triathlon accident which effectively was the beginning of the end in terms of my professional aspirations.
Tina: Do you want to tell us a bit about that? You had 6 months where you had to take it off, but how did you handle that? How was that for you as someone who aspired to be a professional triathlete? How was that taking 6 months off for anyone listening right now who may have had a big injury like that?
Brad: It was a good question Tina. it was a bike crash with another competitor actually, in the Australian Junior National Titles. I was carted off to the hospital concussed, and unbeknownst to myself and family at the time, suffering a brain hemorrhage with lots of other broken bones, collarbone, scapulas, and massive skin abrasions. It was a really serious trauma, and the implications of that, I was 18 turning 19 at the time, and in some ways I was bulletproof. Sitting in the hospital sort of thinking everything was okay. It wasn’t until I realized I was in the neurosurgical lab, with people all around me with halo braces on from their neurosurgeon’s interventions I realized that it was quite serious having a brain hemorrhage.
I guess Tina, the physical pain was one thing. I guess many listeners will actually resonate with this, but what actually I think is the bigger problem, and certainly I unpacked this in research in the book Run Pain Free, is that injuries are more than skin deep. For me, I actually slid into clinical depression off the back of this triathlon crash and then actually developed suicidal tendencies on the back of what I felt like was a loss of identity. It’s funny now, as a professional, consulting injured runners I often ask them how the injury is making them feel. It’s amazing when you just stop and pause, the outpouring of emotion that often follows that question.
Tina: Oh, absolutely. When you were just saying that I’m sure lots of people were nodding their head along. I remember in college when I had a big injury. Exactly what you said. The loss of identity. I’ve talked in the past on the podcast about how it’s almost as if you become, I’ve said before that I became the runner named Tina rather than Tina the runner. So when that runner title was taken out you feel, “What do I have to offer the world?” It’s something that’s not talked about enough, as you mentioned. I kind of feel jealous of your clients. They actually get to have someone like you who does realize that.
Let’s talk about that kind of embarrassment that you spoke about in the book, which I will mention now, called “You Can Run Pain Free”. We will be talking about things Brad wrote about in the book and I’ll give you some information on how to get a hold of that later in the show. Do you want to kind of talk about the embarrassment as most of us feel that we’re the only one that has that? It’s embarrassing to admit that running is so important to us.
Brad: Yeah, it’s funny isn’t it Tina? A common statement I get in the physio therapy consultation room is, “But it’s not … I know someone who’s suffering some sort of life threatening illness.” There’s often those comparisons made with, I guess people bringing perspective around it, but as I like to sort of coach my physio clients around is that, “Well, yes. It might be that there’s other greater things in the world, that there always will be, but is this important to you?” When we break it down it absolutely is and that’s for a myriad of reasons. Whether it’s fitness, stress relief, cardiovascular health, or just highly anxious people that go for a run and have more clarity for the rest of the day. That’s not even touching on the, as you’d be aware, many of you listeners, the massive bounty of scientific research which validates the endless health benefits of running. There’s a psychological aspect. There’s obviously the physiological aspects and everything that goes with that.
Tina: Do have any thoughts on why, I mean you said about there’s so much comparison. Do you think that’s the main reason we kind of feel embarrassed to admit that we’re so emotionally low down because of running?
Brad: Yeah, I do think there’s a bit of that. It’s kind of like, “Well, what am I doing moping around with my head down when it’s all, I’m not able to run. That’s all it is.” But it’s what that means to that individual. Running is a big part of so many people’s lives. I think it’s a dangerous slippery slope when we try and, I guess, hide beneath the impact it’s having on us psychologically. We only need to ask our partners or our significant others what the reality is of an injury. They’ll say, “Hey, it’s not physical. It’s psychological. The whole family feels it.”
Tina, if I may share a little story?
Tina: Of course, yeah. Great.
Brad: It really brings the beauty around this topic. Actually a gentleman who I reference in the book who is one of the real catalysts for me to sit down and put pen to paper was a runner called Mark. Tina, Mark had actually traveled over an hour and a half to see me at the physio practice on the recommendation of a friend. Mark presented with a fairly benign, sorry fairly commonplace ankle injury that just hadn’t gotten right. It had stopped Mark from getting back to competing in a half marathon. As I do with every patient I asked Mark, “Okay Mark. This is what’s happening. How’s it making you feel?” Mark at the time was a 52 year old male who had a fairly high level role in society with his job, and a family of many kids. Mark sat there and just shed tears. He said to me, “I can’t believe I’m crying.” I said, “Mark, it’s okay. Just let it out. I can understand and I empathize with what’s going on.”
The interesting thing about this story, Tina, is yes we got Mark back to running half marathons, but it wasn’t until 2 and a half years later when I got a phone cal from his son, who was also a patient of mine, saying that, “Brad my dad is actually in hospital in Brisbane. He’s just had a quadruple bypass.” Mark had actually suffered a massive heart attack. Interestingly it was his cardiac surgeons and cardiologist that actually credited Mark’s running fitness with the very thing that saved his life. He’s now got 25% cardiac function. Just ran the Paris Marathon this year.
I look back and think, “Wow. If I had have just treated Mark as just a typical ankle injury and not gone the extra mile to make sure he got back to injury free running consistently then perhaps that running fitness wouldn’t have been there.” There’s always that perspective that, yes it might be an ankle injury, or a sore knee, or an Achilles, but we’re talking about running for people’s lives really.
Tina: Yeah, absolutely.
Brad: Not just an ankle.
Tina: Yeah, wow. Thank you for sharing that. I found that very inspiring in the book, but I’m glad you decided to share that one with the readers. I’m guessing your injury history, going through that and knowing what that feels like, that has made you a better physio, or physical therapist I guess would be the word used in America. But it’s kind of helped you to see that perspective, that maybe you wouldn’t have otherwise. Let’s kind of look at that.
In the book you talk about how anyone and everyone can run pain free. I’m sure quite a few people are saying, “Whatever. I can’t.” I know in particular my family, my sister who hopefully is not going to kill me for saying this, she has a little injury right now and she’s not able to run. My parents like, “Oh, well she has an infused vertebrae so she just isn’t meant to run.” I’m like, “No, that isn’t true.” She’s got a problem with her foot. It’s nothing to do with her back. Maybe it is, but you know. So what would you like to say to people, and to my parents listening, who think that anyone, if you run far enough or you run long enough you’re going to get injured? It’s inevitable. There’s nothing you can do.
Brad: Certainly Tina. Oh gosh. It is certainly a real passion of mine to try and dispel that, what is actually just a myth. There’s no substantiation to that. I think it’s just a myth that’s passed from generation to generation just as the myth that running will wear our your knees. It’s the same sort of kettle of fish. The reality is that, in my experience as a runner, as a triathlete formerly, and as a physio therapist who’s looked after thousands of runners over the last 9 to 10 years, everyone can enjoy injury free running, but the caveat to that is that the 5 keys, or the 5 steps that I share in the book, they need to be in operation and ticked off in terms of a checklist at any given time for the runner to experience and enjoy that injury free running.
The trick is, most runners are unaware of what these 5 things are, and some runners aren’t necessarily prepared or committed, because it’s not a high enough priority for them, to ensure that those 5 things remain in place. It is absolutely possible for everyone to enjoy it. It’s just a matter of whether it’s a high enough priority that they would do the things they need to to go out and enjoy it.
Tina: I’m glad you brought that up as well because I think that’s something that is important because many people thinking, “Oh, great. It’s possible. Tell me how. Tell me how.” But when they look at it, “Oh, I have to do all that.” Well then, like you said, if it’s not a high enough priority then you are risking it by letting one of those or a few of those practice go. I just want to mention one person before we do move on as an example of this. My dear friend who’s actually a Runner’s Connect Coach, Sarah Crouch, she runs 130 miles a week. She’s never taken more that 4 days off because of a physical injury. She’s a prime example of someone. It can be done. For running that amount of mileage, she’s perfect example.
Before we go into the 5 steps, I just wanted you to explain this as I found it particularly interesting and runners love analogies. Could you kind of explain your insurance policy analogy? I thought people would like that.
Brad: In terms of injuries Tina?
Tina: Yeah. Just how it’s like taking out an insurance policy.
Brad: Yeah. Well, it’s a term that I use regularly in the treatment room, and also out running with friends and other runners here in Australia. That’s, an insurance policy is the things that your body, Tina, or your sister’s body, or your friend who you just referenced, Runner’s Connect Coach Sarah, need to do to keep you out there and injury free. Insurance policy can be a series of strength based exercises that are specific for your body, Tina, as an example. Or they may be some important stretches. Insurance policy also can include things like the footwear you’ve got, the technique that you’re using, and obviously your training program.
People tend to appreciate the simplicity of that notion, and when we rehabilitate runners, or any athlete for that matter, I do like to make the delineation of, “What are you trying to get done? Are you trying to simply get out of pain, or are you trying to return to your physical best?” Because they’re 2 very, very, very different journeys. Fortunately the bulk of my work is with athletes who are highly motivated so normally we’re going down that second route of complete rehabilitation, which is really the insurance policy. It’s very distinct from getting out of pain, the absence of pain is a poor indicator in terms of rehabilitation.
Tina: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and a lot of people, as you mentioned in the book, do tend to suffer from something again because they don’t, obviously, treat the source of the problem. Just one more thing before we move on. You did talk about running injuries are rarely one single factor, but do you think it’s just out of ease that we try and pick one thing and say, “It must have been that.” Or do you think there’s another reason why we try to make it very simple when it’s usually not?
Brad: Yeah, Tina. This is a great question. I think that we all aspire to simplicity. We’ve generally all got a lot going on in our world these days. The notion that it’s this one little factor that, if that can be pushed, or prodded, or ticked, or changed, i.e. running shoes, then everything will become okay. The reality is, in over 25,000 physio consults, not all with runners over the years, but a large portion of those, I don’t think I’ve ever met 1 patient whose injury causation is due to one sole factor. Rather it’s normally this analogy I like to make. If it’s like baking a cake. If you put enough of this in, with enough of that, in the right environment, then an injury will ensue in time. In terms of insurance policy, back on that, it’s making sure all the ingredients, or the causing or contributing factor of that injury are, 1, identified, and 2, corrected if you’re truly going to take out insurance and minimize the chance of this thing coming back.
Tina: Yep, great. I’m loving these analogies. You used quite a few of them in the book. I think they really make it easy to understand. Let’s briefly go over the 5 steps and then I want to dive into them a bit more. Could you just share what the 5 are for our listeners?
Brad: Certainly Tina. The 5 steps are, the headlines, the first step is Identifying Your Body Type, or Understanding Your Running Body. I guess we can break these down as we go.
Tina: Yeah sure. Okay, great.
Brad: That works for you. The second step is Running with Great Technique. We can unpack that. The third is Navigating the Footwear Maze, making sure the runner is in appropriate footwear. The fourth is what I call the Importance of Hip Stability, which we can unpack. The fifth is the one that holds it all together, which is arguably the most challenging. That’s the Power of Rest, which comes in another [parlence 00:21:17], training volume, training errors, et cetera.
Tina: Yep, yep. I’d love to kind of dive into each of these. Obviously we can’t go into them too deep because we don’t want to take up 4 hours of your time, but this is, the book again called You Can Run Pain Free. I will put a link to it in the show notes so if you do want to buy it, which I highly recommend it, I was telling Brad before that I’ve been reading it. I put notes all over it. You’re going to love it. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes at runnersconnect.net/rc80.
Let’s start with the first one. You talked about people not being in despair if, in your words, the gene pool appears to have been unkind in other areas. Explain how that relates to everyone being able to run pain and injury free.
Brad: Certainly that is a little line in the book, Tina. Well highlighted. We don’t need to get physical with the book. I think anyone reading it that’s a runner, we like to get out and move so I encourage people to draw all over it, write on it. Best way to interact with it. That particular phrase really points to the fact, Tina, that a lot of runners who are injured, or people looking on from the sideline such as the example you shared, possibly your parents with your sister, sometimes the tendency is just to sort of, I guess, denounce any sort of responsibility in some ways by just saying, “Well, I’m just not built to run. I’m not built to be a runner.” That’s really not true at all. Everyone can enjoy injury free running.
Certainly we recognize, and science points to this, and anyone with an astute eye observing the best runners in the world would recognize this, that there are certain characteristics that the best runners in the world have. They have very lean bodies, no surprises there. They’re pretty much composed of just tendons and skeletons. There’s not a lot of muscle mass on these elite distance runners. They’ve actually got very small circumferences around their ankles. The smaller the better. They’ve got, typically, small pelvises and long leg to torso ratios amongst many things.
Most of us don’t have those physical attributes, yet it shouldn’t stop us or deter us from trying to fulfill our own running potential, which is absolutely possible. Even if the genetic pool seems to have been less than kind for anyone aspiring to run their best, don’t despair. The 5 steps will really help injury proof your body so you can explore your potential.
Tina: Great. One of the aspects of your running makeup, you talked about your mobility status and how you can be hyper or hypo flexible. Do you want to kind of explain that and how that can effect the way that you approach your running?
Brad: Yeah, Tina. You are very well researched.
Tina: I told you I did. When I first spoke to Brad when we were setting up this interview I told him I was going to really think about these questions. I always do.
Brad: It’s outstanding. Certainly this comes under this first step of people identifying their running body type. One of the key things that I teach physio therapists at work alongside me in the practice here in Australia, certainly assessing every runner in the physio rooms, physical therapy rooms, is to identify their natural mobility status, or their genetic mobility status. That sounds like a mouthful, but all it really means is, “How floppy and stretchy are you around your joints?” That’s got a large genetic predisposition to it. I simplify it Tina, and you’ve read this, but I simplify it into 3 categories. Everyone will either be 1 of 3 things, a flippy, floppy, or stiffy. It normally brings a smile to most people’s face because they have a bit of a chuckle, but a stiffy is someone that doesn’t have a lot of natural mobility around their joints. This has connotations to what that runner will need to do to look after their body, and how they’ll also run.
A flippy is someone that isn’t really very stiff or very mobile or flexible naturally, whereas on the other end of the spectrum to the stiffy you’ve got the floppy’s. They, genetically, have massive ranges of motion around their joints. Probably the kids that used to put their legs over their head in the playground and still can as adults. Just like the stiffy’s, these runners will have certain ways that they move and certain tendencies in how they use their body.
Tina: Exactly, and again that’s something that in the book he does go into in detail and you will be able to determine which one of those you are and how that should affect your training. You talked about the importance of running screening tests. Many runners would like to do something like this, but you kind of warned against, if possible, doing it at home. What suggestions do you have for those who aren’t in Australia, number 1, or if they don’t have anywhere nearby, maybe they’re in a country that doesn’t even have anything like this, what would you suggest?
Brad: Tina, great question. In the back of the book’s actually an appendix, the Running Screen, and it lists all the tests. As an accompaniment to that there’s a link in the book to a website which has the Running Screen video demonstrated, me demonstrating. Worst case is someone can’t, what’s been getting great feedback on is people taking the book to therapists worldwide and having the therapist complete the table in the back of the book and help the runner identify what the bits of their running body are that might need correcting or addressing.
Those 2 things will help runners, no matter where they are Tina, to get a good gauge of their running body. We’re not just talking about mobility status. We’re also talking about any adverse patterns of tightness. Classically with runners it’s tight quads, and hamstrings, and various other bits. That’s not just related to the mobility status we discussed because you can still be a hyper mobile runner, which I am, and still have very tight hamstrings, which I do. There’s a little bit, a few levels there that we unpack in the book as to understanding the running body.
Tina: Great, okay. That’s definitely helpful because I know we have talked about how to improve, how to assess the way your body is, mostly your running form which we’re going to talk about in a second. I know we have had some comments that, “I don’t have access to that.” So this is great that in the book you do have that. Then you do talk about a frame way, but I’m just going to encourage everyone again to read the book for that part. It’s kind of a bit difficult to go into that without actually spending the whole interview on it. I’d like to move on to one that I think people are very interested in, which of course is running form.
As you talked about this quite a lot in the book, and I know this is something runners are very interested in, let’s talk about cadence. You want to kind of explain what that is for people who may have heard that word thrown around, but don’t quite understand it?
Brad: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a big topic isn’t it, out there in the running community? It’s a welcome topic for the benefits it can bring. It’s great that there’s an awareness around this. Tina I like this to educate runners that cadence is simply, for those that do spin classes in a gym, or ride a bike, the amount of revolutions per minute of the legs. In runner’s context that’s the number of foot strikes per minute that you have. I like to keep it really simple, so whilst many industry voices will talk about cadence including both feet, so the number of foot contacts for both feet inside a minute, I like just to half that and just talk about 1 foot because what 1 foot does the other foot’s doing inevitably and the numbers are smaller and a bit more palatable.
Tina: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. Can you kind of explain why you said about the 90 per minute? I really struggled with this about a year ago when I started trying to change my cadence, and I have significantly reduced it, but how do you get your head around, it’s easy for us to think you stride out. You see these elite runners and their strides are so long. People think they want to bound along. How do you get your head around more steps are actually better for you, in most cases, than less longer steps, if that makes sense.
Brad: Absolutely makes sense Tina. It’s a very insightful comment. You’re spot on. I think we default as observers of these elite runners too often trying to, we’ve all said it at some point I’m sure in our running lives. “I’m going to catch that person in front.” Whether it’s the school cross country, or the local 5 and 10K road race. “I’m going to stride out.” The best thinking around it is that yes, it’s just based on the fact that we watch these amazing elite runners. They are taking these impossibly long strides. However, we often forget, or I think we always forget, that they’re moving at 20K an hour plus typically. Whatever we’re watching, whether it’s a marathon, or faster for shorter distances. We’re typically not. So they’re naturally going to have much greater distance per step than we will at slower speeds.
The one constant, whether we’re running at, obviously I’m here in Australia so the system we talk about is 5 minute K pace, or 3 minute K pace. U.S. obviously has different terminology. The one constant is that foot contact time, the time the foot is on the ground, needs to be very minimal. These elite runners will always have a cadence of close, or just over 90 steps per minute on each leg. That’s irrespective of their speed. I think the problem is that too many people over analyze and they think, “If I’ve got to have 90 steps per minute how can I ever run faster? How can the person next to me run faster?” But there’s a whole bunch of other factors that derive speed, such as our natural aerobic capacity, our VO2 max, and all these other factors.
Carriage runners keep it simple. Trust the science that 90 steps works. Don’t over think it. What happens when the cadence is less than 90, Tina is that the foot is typically landing in a position out in front of the body which is putting these braking forces on, in essence, every step that the runner takes they then have to generate this momentum to try and come back against that braking force. So when the foot lands under the body at 90 steps per minute the runner propels themselves forward faster and with lots less loads on their lower limbs.
Tina: Oh, absolutely. Anyone who’s listened for a while knows I went to the UVA Speed Clinic and that’s something I’ve been working on along with, as you mentioned, 75% of runners, is that correct? Over stride?
Brad: It’s huge. Yes. It’s the bulk of runners. I actually look back at my junior running triathlon career, which I mentioned it was my weak leg of the 3 legs of triathlon, and I look at the PB’s that I used to have as a 3 times a day train as a junior athlete. Came back and here I’m in my 30’s now and I’m still discovering my personal bests. They’re much quicker than I ever did as a teenager. One of the key factors is that I’m aware of my running technique. I implement what I teach obviously, and it’s a huge difference. We’re talking about 2, 3 minutes over 5 K’s. I’m in my 30’s, so it can be really significant.
Tina: Absolutely. You mentioned in the book about a study that you found that had this increase in cadence resulted in huge reductions of in loading of the hips and the knees. We know that most injuries are somehow related to one of those joints. That kind of explains the importance of it, but what would you like to say to people who think, “Okay, well surely the more the better. What about if I do 100 strides per minute?” Is there a too far with this?
Brad: Yeah it is. It’s absolutely a great question Tina. It’s a bit like the arousal state before a race, the good old inverted you that so many of us have seen. That’s if you’re asleep on the start line it won’t help your performance, and if, on the other end of the spectrum, if you’re so overly anxious and nervous you’d be vomiting on the side of the road and that won’t help your performance. If you’re somewhere in between you’ll be in that sweet spot. It’s a bit like that with cadence. It actually gets physiologically impossible to get anywhere more than sort of 95 steps in plus per minute on each leg. It’s just physically impossible no matter the height, size, the weight of the runner. There is that sort of natural cap.
Interestingly, I’m a running geek. I run around counting people’s steps here in Australia and some of Australia’s best running talent over the years I’ve had the privilege of running with at different times. I’ve counted their steps and the same with some of the triathletes. They’re all around 90. It’s fascinating.
Tina: Do you tell them? Do you tell them when you?
Brad: I have occasionally. One that I didn’t tell was Steve [Monaghetti 00:35:43] who was one of the [inaudible 00:35:45] at sports. I followed Steve for my first marathon actually, here on the Gold Coast for the whole 39 K’s of the race before I fell off the back. He was a pace setter. He wasn’t racing flat out, but I passed the time then by counting Steve’s steps and he was pretty much 89, 90 the whole way.
Tina: Oh, that’s great. I do want to just say to anyone who is trying to change their cadence, that I did spend a year doing it and I’m still working on it. It is going to feel uncomfortable. It is going to be hard work. I still feel like I’m shuffling and this is a year later. It does take some time, but it does make huge differences. I think those of you who follow my professional career as I’ve been going up, I had a huge improvement a couple days ago with a race. That kind of showed that it had come together. One more thing I wanted to ask you about running technique.
You said about, you explained how to run well, what good technique is. This is just a question I’m curious. I’m not sure what you’re going to think of the question, but you said about good form with your arms, but what do you say to people who say, “Well, the arms are just a counterbalance for your lower leg weaknesses.” Can you really correct your arms, or is it just they are balancing out everything else?
Brad: Geez Tina. These are great questions.
Tina: That’s something I was just curious about myself because I know my arms are all the place sometimes.
Brad: Well, it’s funny. I think keeping it sort of condensed on the core, a couple of key points would be there are a few mistakes that some people, that many runners unfortunately, make with their arms and they do allow them to, at times, cross the mid-line of their body which then brings this rotation force around the joints. It’s also wasted energy, sideways type energy that is working against the runner, so not allowing the arms to cross the mid-line of the body.
2 other classic mistakes that I see Tina, are allowing the shoulders to eat the ears, so carrying the shoulders too high. That has effects on the ability to breath, relax, hold a lot of manifestations. The other thing would be allowing the angle of the arm, or the elbow, to be too open. Typically that creates extra torque or rotation forces around the runner’s trunk as well. What’s funny is you can pick out any Olympic marathon over the years and watch some of these techniques and you will see these 3 common arm mistakes being made by some of the best runners in the world.
There’s certain patterns, from a bio-mechanical point of view we know aren’t necessarily advantageous, but then there’s always the exceptions to the rules. By and large the lesson is we’ll benefit from not making those 3 mistakes. The arms aren’t just counterbalances. There is a function for them. It’s a little test, if you know the listeners want to go and test this out on the next run. The faster you pump your arms the quicker your legs are going to have to follow. In races where I’m absolutely spent I’ll sometimes switch from counting my foot strikes to counting my arm swings like I’m in a boxing match, just so I can sort of give my brain a bit of a chance to defer some of the pain from the legs. Yep, guaranteed if you’re pumping your arms, your legs are following. There’s a certain role for generating propulsion.
Tina: Yeah, great. Okay, next I want to combine a little bit, 2 of the steps because I want to get through all of them and I don’t want us to run out of time. You talked about over pronation and it’s kind of not what it seems. Could you explain that as that word has just been misused over recent years?
Brad: Oh, goodness. Absolutely. I’ll try and be brief Tina, so cut me off if I get on my soap box here. Tina, pronation is not a bad thing. It’s a natural movement that the body must go through in order to 1, generate propulsion, and 2, dissipate forces. Where pronation has caught the bad rap is that yes, over pronation, which has 2 categories, over pronation can denote too much pronation so too much rolling of the foot in terms of quantity, and also too fast or too great a rate of dropping of the foot arch. That’s what over pronation means. Through the late 80’s, early 90’s, even to the late 90’s the medical science world sort of jumped to, I guess, off the back of a few studies to this conclusion that all pronation must be stamped out by putting anti-pronation devices in shoes and lots of things. There is a role for that for many runners, particularly the hyper mobile runners who have very lax joints.
However, we don’t want to stop and eradicate pronation because we’d end up with actually even a higher injury running rate, running injury incidents than what we see these days.
Tina: Interesting. From that you kind of explained that hips are key to this preventing over pronation and stabilizing things. That’s how I wanted to combine the 2 there. If you could kind of explain, you said about running being a single leg sport. What does that mean and just how important are our hips, a stable hip, in running pain and injury free?
Brad: It is vital Tina, hence why I made the top 5 keys. In terms of putting this framework for the book together, when I actually sat back and thought about, “What are the key things that I’ve discovered over the years are the glue, the insurance policy that helps runners stay out there injury free?” Hip stability is a factor for every runner. With running injury, typically I can’t recall, even with some of the elite athletes, over the years where hip stability hasn’t been a factor. It’s kind of like a never ending runway. We can always improve it to the next level.
Implications of a hip, or hip muscles, that don’t stabilize, or support the runner’s body enough are that, as you said Tina, it’s a single leg sport. We’ll bound from leg to leg, and on each step the hips, if the muscles aren’t strong enough, will collapse, and the collapsing of the pelvis has 2 effects. 1, it slows us down and typically we’re all trying to run faster. 2, it increases the loading on the legs. So whether it’s the Achilles tendon, the foot, the knee, the hip, the lower back, the shins, that collapsing of the pelvis results in more contact time with the ground and therefore more forces through the legs. It’s something that absolutely must be 1, assessed, and 2, identified, and 3, corrected.
Tina: Absolutely. You go into this in great detail in the book and for anyone who has had some physio, a physical therapist say, “You’re not using your glutes.” Or you have had a string of injuries, this book really will help you to kind of figure out if your hips are the cause of this and what can happen if you actually do get it taken care of. I know that’s made a huge difference for me. I loved, by the way, that you did reference Dan Lieberman in your research. I’m not sure if you know, or anyone listening, it was one of the earlier ones in the year, but we did interview him. It was a great interview which you can find at runnersconnect.net/rc47. That was actually interesting to see that you did reference him because he’s such a pioneer within this research.
Tina: Kind of related to him, let’s look at shoes. Many runners think they’ve got to find the best shoe, but you said you don’t have to look for the perfect running shoe, just kind of an area of running shoe. Could you explain what that means?
Brad: Yeah, thanks Tina. This time Daniel Lieberman, actually I had the privilege of meeting him at a physio conference in Australia a couple years ago.
Tina: Oh, great.
Brad: Yeah. I thought it was quite novel. Daniel threw out to the delegates of the physio conference, it was Australia’s annual physio therapy, every 2 years we hold it, conference. He said, “I’ll be going for a run the next morning and everyone’s welcome. I won’t be running in shoes around the streets of Brisbane, but you can.” He’s quite a character.
Tina: Oh, yeah.
Brad: Obviously he’s credited with so much of what we now practice and know today. Tina, I think in terms of answering your question, many runners, many listeners, would identify with the notion that all they need is that perfect pair of shoes. That one pair of shoes, and often it’s viewed as the magic bullet, or the golden solution to all their running injuries and ills. That’s not the case. There’s normally more than one shoe for each runner that would absolutely serve them well with their running goals. However, it’s being able to identify what works for the runner. That’s why in the book I said I’ve unpacked the 6 considerations around what you should be considering when you go to buy a pair of shoes.
Tina: Yeah, and it was very helpful. I really enjoyed that section actually. Can you just go over how runners should not be jumping from one extreme to the next when it comes to shoes, especially when going down to lighter shoes? You mentioned a transition period of 18 to 24 months, which people listening may be like, “What?” Do you want to explain why it is important to take so long to do that transition?
Brad: Yeah Tina. A transition is required and many people get excited about going to a lighter pair of shoes. Let’s not hide the fact that lighter shoes make a big difference in performance. I reference in the book that it’s .06 seconds per 100 grams of shoe weight that you will save off every mile of running in terms of lighter shoes, so lighter shoes matter. A lot of runners get excited and go from a heavier shoe to a very light shoe too quickly. One of the results is typically sore calves, calf injuries, or sore Achilles tendons. The transition period is required to ease the body into getting used to using the calf muscles, the Achilles tendon more because typically lighter shoes have a lower pitch, or height of the heel in simple terms. The lower you drop there the more you’re starting to rely on the calf and Achilles as a propulsive mechanism.
You don’t want to overwhelm it and develop an Achilles tendon injury, or a calf injury, because unfortunately they can sometimes take time, or mostly take time to resolve.
Tina: Oh, definitely. I think many people listening, I know I’ve been through both of those and they’re not fun. You said about the difference per mile, you said about in the book using different racing shoes as to your training shoes. Is that the primary reason for that? You wanted people to see that if they do train in a heavier shoe and you race in the lighter shoe it’s going to save you energy?
Brad: Yeah, certainly it will. 1, it will feel better. Come race day you put something on light on your feet and it’s just a psychological boost that, “Gosh I feel good.” That’s really the key reason, but there’s also interest in some research that points to runners mixing their shoes up in terms of weights and profile of the shoe. Heel drop, pitch, stiffnesses, et cetera, in terms of reducing injuries as well. There’s a real case for keeping your body guessing if you like. It also challenges the body in terms of making sure it doesn’t get lazy with its motor patterns or way of doing things.
Tina: Yeah, and I feel like when I put those racing shoes on I just feel fast, I feel good. Now it’s a psychological boost as well.
Brad: Absolutely. You are fast Tina.
Tina: Thank you. Sometimes. I have a lot of very slow days as well, which actually, perfect transition point to the most important, or arguably the most important one, of rest. Do you want to briefly explain the 5 most common mistakes you see when it comes to rest?
Brad: Oh Tina, I can absolutely do that, but I must get the elephant out of the room and say that I am like any runner with this one. I am not sitting here on some soap box telling everyone to do it perfectly. An example is I, somewhat embarrassingly, after this book was released this year and went on to experience success in terms of its distribution, I had to put out on social media that I was out of my local marathon due to a stress reaction of my femur which I developed off the back of a PB in a half marathon race here in Australia. Looking back it was a simple error of just putting 1 extra run in with some friends that was meant to be steady, but when you put guys together in a forest in a trail run it turned into a race. It was a matter of me including 4 back to back runs on 4 weeks. 1 run a week. It was a bit too fast. It was enough to tip me over this happy place of not being injured.
Tina: So you’re saying it was 1 factor that caused it huh?
Brad: Well, it’s funny.
Tina: I’m just giving you a hard time.
Brad: I should have been doing more hip stability as well at the time, but there’s an example of even being the author of this book I can get it wrong. I just want everyone to recognize I understand the psychology of training. Runners are unique people. We love it and obviously get a lot of benefits from it, so it’s often very hard to take rest. However, if we don’t rest, and rest includes taking days off, it includes easy sessions, it includes [periodized 00:50:22] training programs, easy weeks, months, et cetera. We are all kidding ourselves if we don’t think we are setting ourselves up for injury.
The common mistakes are skipping, replacing a rest session for a hard session, which is the one I made in terms of my injury this year, not having a rest day. A friend of mine here in Australia got quite excited about setting a PB in the Melbourne Marathon, and set about on a running streak which was running every day for 2 years. All was going well for this gentleman until, probably 200 days into it his body just started to break down and 2 years on he’s now only just starting to find his way back. Don’t take any rest days is a major problem.
Tina: You hear that quite often don’t you?
Brad: Sorry Tina. I cut you off.
Tina: Sorry. No, I was interrupting. I said we hear that quite often where you have a good race and you almost don’t want to get going. You don’t want to stop. Or you have a bad race and you kind of want to redeem yourself. What you’re saying is important. Either way your body still needs that rest, especially after a marathon.
Brad: Yeah, absolutely. Many people get excited after a good race and want to keep pushing hard. That’s one of the other mistakes, is not allowing the body time to recover, particularly after the longer races, half marathon, marathons. There’s a physical tax on the body and one of the components of that is actually neurological fatigue and anyone that has had a marathon, or a hard half marathon I think would identify if they actually reflect. It’s often 2, 3 days later where you’re on a bit of a high the day after. Then yes, you’ve got the [inaudible 00:52:14], the sore muscles 2 days later at its worst. However, I know personally I neurologically I just feel flat and fatigued and so the over zealous runner that doesn’t heed those signs, or push on and try and pump out fast times in training, and unfortunately, often set up a cascade of negative effects in terms of their health and their body as well.
Tina: Yeah, definitely. There’s obviously a lot more to this, which I would encourage you to read it once again. One more thing about rest. You said about how many runners get sick the week of their important race. Do you want to explain why that is? I’m sure that’s happened to a lot of us.
Brad: Absolutely. It’d be lovely in podcast land if we could have a show of hands of how many people this speaks to. It’s funny, I saw a great friend of mine just yesterday in a physio treatment room who’s getting ready for, hopefully, a PB in the Melbourne Marathon here in Australia in the month of October. He said, “All’s well. No problems. Give me a bit of a panel beating before the race with my body, but I’ve got a tickle in my throat.” When we’re pushing in training week after week trying to find our best performance, the body can get into a state of what we call immuno-suppression. Basically it just means the immune system’s a bit flat, Tina, and susceptible, picking up fairly commonplace little bugs. Whether that’s an upper respiratory tract infection, or, hopefully not, but a virus which can have more long lasting, sinister effects. Not uncommon for the body to, unfortunately, experience these things leading directly into an event.
Tina: Is there a way of preventing that? Would you have any suggestions for people?
Brad: Yeah, great. Certainly. Tapering it a big topic and I do unpack that in the book in detail, but trying to get a taper right can be one component. Sleep is a critical component. Leading into New York in 3 weeks I’m doing my earnest to try and develop a pretty decent sleep pattern. Missing hours of sleep has really deleterious effects on the immune system, and hormones, and a whole cascade of things. Getting sleep right. There’s other little tips, and ninja tricks Tina, like increasing, typically most endurance athletes benefit from supplementation with things like Zinc. It’s a whole other field talking about nutritional support, but stick to the basics first and foremost. Taper your training. Sleep well. Obviously eat and drink well and you’ll be giving yourself the best shot.
Tina: Great. Great. I’m glad you did mention sleep because that is so important. It is something that is often neglected as a runner. I know that’s my biggest weakness. You can kind of toe the line for a little while, but you have to be very careful with it. I’m glad to hear it. I’m going to release this the week of the New York Marathon so hopefully anyone listening right now you’ll be able to be thinking about this right now and you’ll be able to go say hi to Brad if you see him.
Just to finish up, you kind of talked about how if you are working with a physical therapist, or a physio, who does not have the thinking of, “You can run injury free”, and they think you runners are just stupid, you’re just going to keep getting injured, you talked about keep looking until you do find someone who does believe running is good and running can be helpful. I just wanted you to kind of sum that up with why you think it’s important and why it’s important for you to have the same kind of thoughts aligning with the person you’re working with.
Brad: Yeah Tina. It’s a good sort of landing point. Health practitioners in society, no matter what nation, wherever the listeners are listening, they do hold, when it comes to delivering health care which is their chief endeavor, they hold a level of influence with their words and obviously their recommendations and their advice. It does frustrate me and sadden me for the individual that’s the recipient sometimes of really what’s nothing more than throwaway, unsubstantiated lines and advice such as, “Why don’t you just consider not running? Your body’s not meant, you’re not meant to run. Running will wear out your knees.” The typical myths that we often hear. Even our friends. “Oh, gosh you’re crazy. You’re running. You’ll wear out your legs and be heading for a knee replacement.”
The funny thing is, science actually now verifies that running’s actually protective against knee osteoarthritis. There’s all sorts of studies I reference in the book around this. Tina, if any of the listeners do feel a little beaten down and a bit low in spirit because they’ve had advice about considering hanging their running shoes up, then yes, keep looking. Keep searching for someone that shares the same belief that running is possible to be done injury free. If anyone out there has concerns, or they’re trying to locate someone then, Tina, I’m happy for, obviously, listeners to connect with me via social, or email address, et cetera, and I can hopefully help point them in the right direction.
Tina: Yeah. Let’s finish up with that. What is the best way to get you, or how could people get in touch with you?
Brad: Thanks Tina. I’m fanned across all social platforms. Probably the easiest one is Twitter @brad_beer. There’s a blog that I put out around running on our physio therapy practice page here in Australia called POGO Physio, P-O-G-O like a pogo stick, .com. You’ll find me. Just Google me, Brad Beer Physio and all the different contact points will be there.
Tina: Okay, great. I will put, again, links to the book, which once again is You Can Run Pain Free in addition to Brad’s website and some other ways of contacting him which you can find at runnersconnect.net/rc80. Brad, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show today. I appreciate your time, and I want to wish you the best of luck at the New York Marathon, and to anyone else who is listening that is racing this weekend. Runner’s Connect does have a guide on how to race the New York Marathon so I would check that out. I will put a link to that in the show notes as well. Thank you so much for sharing with us, and I hope many listeners go out and check it out because Brad you’ve been really helpful with this today.
Brad: Oh, thanks Tina. All the best to the listeners and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible to run pain free.
Tina: Great way to end there. Thank you so much.
Living in America I know a lot of people say they love my accent, but I just love the Australian one, especially as Brad is such a great guy. He’s so easy to talk to. I’m wishing him and everyone else racing the New York Marathon, or anywhere else, the best of luck. Let us know how it goes by tweeting @runners_connect. We’d love to hear from you. We have a special treat and it just highlights how genuine Brad is.
He has offered to give away 5 of his books for free to 5 Runner’s Connect Podcast listeners. You can enter this giveaway by visiting the show notes for the page on runnersconnect.net/rc80. There will be a link to the contest that will run until the 20th of November. We will then pick 5 winners at random and Brad will send out the books. What a guy. Be sure to check that out. Trust me, this is a book you will want to read. Good luck and I hope you have a great week.
I reveal why every runner can and should look forward to running injury free, and therefore faster running, and the steps required to unleash their full running potential.
Click HERE to listen to the interview.