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#186904 - 09/01/14 02:07 PM Walk without pain - long post
Gershon Offline

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
This is a discussion I had with my walking coach a few months ago. I omitted the pictures.

“Gary, there is one thing I’d like you to focus on while you are walking, and that is walking without pain.”

“I’m listening Coach.”

“First, let me explain the importance of walking without pain. Pain is a warning sign from your body telling you something is on the verge of being permanently damaged, or at least damaged to the extent it will take time to recover.”

“Can you give me an example, Coach?”

“Sure, let’s start with an easy one. Suppose you get a rock in your shoe. What will you do?”

“Well, I usually kick the front of my shoe on the ground hoping to move it someplace it doesn’t hurt. If that doesn’t work, I stop and take the rock out of my shoe. But, we aren’t really talking about such a simple example, are we, Coach?”

“No, but I’ll work up in severity so you can learn a general rule. Suppose you just bought some new boots and are planning a 5 mile walk. After the first quarter mile, you feel a blister forming on one of your toes. What would happen if you kept walking?”

“Coach, that is easy. Remember those Danner Mountain Lights I bought? I walked like a monk for about 75 miles, and I still had foot pain. I never could break in those boots. I finally gave them an eternal resting place in a closet. If I keep walking, I’ll either get a bad blister, or a layer of skin will peel off. Ouch! That hurts just thinking about it! Do I really have to describe how the skin peels off and the blood dries in the sock making it hell to take off?”

“Gary, glad I hit a nerve on that one. See, every pain is a warning sign that something bad like skin peeling off your toe is about to happen.”

“Look Coach, I’m not going to stop walking for every little ache and pain.”

“Oh, I agree, Gary, but some pains are more serious than others. For instance, knee pain can develop into something quite serious, right?”

“Yeah, anyone can see that, Coach.”

“Well, there are other pains that are just as serious and they can keep you from walking for months if you don’t rest when they start.

“Coach, it sounds like you have a great deal of information to give me. Can you give me a book to read and I’ll get back to you?”

“Sure, this one is free. It’s called “The Soldier’s Foot and the Military Shoe.”

Gary asked, “Why do I want to read about soldiers? I’m not in the military anymore.”

“Gary,” Coach replied, “battles are won and lost because of the infantry soldier’s ability to walk long distances. They cannot do this without the proper shoes. Dr. Munson published this book in 1912, and it is the best explanation of the structure of the foot I can find. It is also the best explanation of how to fit a shoe. If you can visualize the inside of the foot, you will then know if a pain is serious.”

“Coach, I’m not taking Anatomy and Physiology. It’s only a foot. You know, that appendage at the end of my leg. How can it be that complicated?”

“Oh Gary, quit your griping. This book has plenty of pictures, and the explanations are easy. It’s written for soldiers, not doctors. Read it and get back to me, OK?”

“Sure coach.”

A couple days later:

“Coach, I’m glad you encouraged me to read about the soldier’s foot. The book is fascinating!”

“Gary, give three main points from the book.”

“Uh, let’s see.”
1. The foot is more complex than I imagined.
2. The foot has many muscles that need to be trained.
3. Most people’s shoes don’t fit.

Gary, let’s leave fitting shoes until another time. Tell me about the foot.”

“Heck, I’ll show you as that’s easier. I have my Kindle Fire and I’ve bookmarked some pages. Can we keep this simple? I don’t see a need to know all the details.”

“Of course,” Coach said, “simple will be fine.”

“One picture would show how complex the foot is, but I’ll show you three pictures. First the bones, then the muscles, and finally a side view.”

“Here is the picture of the bones:”

“Coach, did you know we have something that looks like a hand in our foot! I always thought our toes were like little fingers. They are only the tips of the fingers! Look how many little bones there are that can have problems!”

“Yes, Gary, it was amazing to me, too. Before studying the matter, I didn’t know the foot was so intricate. What about the muscles and tendons?”

“There are five layers of muscles on the sole of the foot. Do you want to see all the layers, Coach?”

“That won’t be necessary. How about showing the first layer?”

“Ok coach, here it is.”

“There are four muscles running along the length of the foot, and one transverse muscle I don’t see. Each muscle has a tendon attached to it. The muscles serve two purposes. First they are padding for the delicate sole of the foot, and second, they are shock absorbers for the tendons. The way it looks to me, each tendon has a muscle attached to it. The muscle is supposed to extend and contract, and the tendons have little stretch to them. Did I get that right?”

“Close enough, Gary. As you said, this isn’t Anatomy and Physiology. What I wanted you to see is how complex the foot is. What about the arch?”

“Here is a side view of the arch.”

“Coach, one thing that intrigued me is the arch of the foot is a “bowstring arch,” not a “segmented arch.” What this means is it is held in place by the muscles above, not the padding and muscles below. In fact, as it explained in the book, too much arch support in the shoes will ultimately result in flat feet because the muscles on top of the foot will become weak.”

“Gary, drop for 10 pushups.”


“You heard me. Drop for 10, do that 10 more times today. I’ll be back in the morning.”

Next morning.

“How do your arms feel?”

“Coach, I tried to do as you said, but after the fifth set, I couldn’t do anymore. My arms are killing me today. Why did you make me do that?”

“Gary, if you walk 10 miles, each foot is dropping for about 10,000 steps. You couldn’t even do 100 “steps” with your arms. If you tried, you may have damaged something, but the arms generally give out before you damage something. You compared the foot to a hand. Do you know of a case where someone damaged their hands?”

“Why yes, Coach, I do. A writer I know got severe pain in her fingers. A year later, the doctors are still trying to diagnose her injury, and she is unable to write.”

“How did that happen, Gary?”

“Well, she was writing books, and spending her extra time promoting her books on Facebook and several other social media sites. I guess she typed too much.”

“Gary, that is an effect. What was the cause?”

“Oh, I see. The cause was continuing to type when she felt pain. Now I see what you are getting at. If I have pain, I should stop walking so much, or even take a few days off until the pain is gone. It doesn’t matter if I know the cause of the pain. All I need to know is the foot is a complex, and sometimes delicate mechanism. If I push it too hard, then I may permanently damage something and have to quit walking for a long time.”

“As your Coach, what would you like me to do about it?”

“Coach, as you know, you are a part of my mind. I’d like you to check my feet and all the other parts of my body frequently to ensure I’m not walking in pain. If you sense something wrong, let me know. Then beat me over the head to not walk so much.”

“That’s a deal, Gary, but I’ll take it one step further. Trust me to guide you to walk in a way that prevents pain. You may want to push the pace on some days, and I’ll hold you back. You may want to adjust the way you walk. Leave that to me as your subconscious. Your brain can’t think quick enough to make the necessary adjustments. Mine can, as the subconscious thinks many times faster than the conscious brain.”

“There is another part to this deal, Gary.”

“What is that?”

“Ultimately, I take directions from you, the logical one. If you decide to walk 20 miles, I will help you do that, even if it is unwise. Your job is to logically set your goals so you do not feel pain. Not only in your feet, but also in the rest of your body. Can we work together on that?”

“Yes coach, now let’s get lunch. I think the rice is almost ready.”

Edited by Gershon (09/01/14 02:12 PM)

#186905 - 09/01/14 02:18 PM Re: Walk without pain - long post [Re: Gershon]
aimless Offline

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 3149
Loc: Portland, OR
This is excellent, but I'd like to mention that walking without pain includes more than just your feet. There are also knees, hips and your whole spinal column to consider as well. Not every pain is indicative of impending damage, but pain anywhere is worth your immediate and focused attention to figure out what it is telling you.

#186914 - 09/01/14 04:50 PM Re: Walk without pain - long post [Re: aimless]
Gershon Offline

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Thanks Aimless. Coach and I had another discussion a couple weeks later. Perhaps a second example will emphasize the point.

A Painful Experience

“Gary, you had a rough couple of weeks. What happened?

“Coach, my right knee started hurting a little, but at first I thought it was nothing. Then it started hurting more, and I had to take some breaks. I took a whole weekend off. During the next week I cut my mileage in half. The knee gradually started feeling better, and now the pain is gone.”

“Gary, did you make a mistake allowing the pain to continue so long when it started?”

“Coach, I think it was a learning experience. At first, when I started walking, the pain would disappear after a mile or so. I thought it was fine, so I kept walking about 10 miles a day.”

“Gary, what do you think caused the pain?”

“That’s my Coach – always asking for the cause instead of the effect. I found my speed was naturally increasing, and since I was walking 10 miles in a shorter time, I decided to add to the mileage at the same time. Oh, and I ignored the pain in the early stages. Coach, what do you think I should do next time?”

“Gary, you made the mistake of increasing your speed and distance at the same time. You may have been making more additional effort then you thought. I’d suggest increasing either speed or distance, but not both at the same time.”

“You know, I think that’s it exactly. That was one cause, and the second cause was ignoring pain in the early stages. Do you remember once telling me ‘Experience is recognizing a mistake when I make it again?’”

“Why yes, that is one of my favorite sayings. Why do you ask?”

“Coach, I could be on the verge of making the same mistake again. I’ve been increasing my mileage lately, although I’ve kept the speed constant. My arches are tired, but not hurting. Maybe I should take a day off. What do you think?”

“Gary, why don’t you cancel your five mile walk tomorrow morning? You can make a decision about your short walks later in the day.”

“What if I feel good and ready to go in the morning, Coach?”

“The decision is yours, Gary, but sometimes it’s best to go with your first instinct. Tell me, did the break for your knee make it harder to walk when your knee recovered?”

“No, in fact, I felt stronger than before. Are you telling me that if I take a break tomorrow I’ll feel stronger afterwards?"

“That’s right, Gary. It will be better for your foot muscles to fully recover. Meanwhile, your other muscles will also continue to develop. Did you know muscles strengthen for about two weeks when you stop training?”

“No, I didn’t, and that doesn’t seem possible to me, Coach.”

“Well, back in 1984, I was watching the women’s Olympic Marathon. Joan Benoit took the lead shortly after the start and never looked back. I think she led the entire distance. Want to know the rest of the story?”

“Don’t tell me she took two weeks off before the marathon.”

“That’s it, Gary. She had knee surgery about 14 days before the marathon. Laparoscopies were new then, so the incision wasn’t big. Still, it forced her to take two weeks off.”

“Ok, I get the message. Rather than repeat the knee experience with my arches, I’ll cancel my five mile walk in the morning. I know, I can work on writing this book instead!”

“One more thing, Gary.”

“What’s that, Coach?”

“I’ve been looking at the goals set on your Fitbit dashboard. I think it’s time to change them.”

“Coach, I’ve been beating them every day for the past few days.”

“That’s the problem, Gary. Maybe it’s time to change them. You have been aiming for 10 miles and hitting 11 to 12 miles. You have a goal of 20,000 steps, and have been getting 23,000 steps a day. You don’t have a plan to limit your walking each day. Once you exceed your goals, you want to beat them as much as possible. Let’s fix that so you don’t walk your way into an injury again. OK?

“Sure Coach. Why don’t I make some rice and steamed vegetables while you formulate a plan. We can discuss it over supper.”

Next morning:

“Gary, good job on skipping your long walk this morning. How do you feel about missing a day?

“Coach, I wanted to go out the door and walk, but I thought about the possibility of missing more days later if I walked today. Besides, I thought about the new goals you set for me last night.”

“Gary, did you decide to use the new goals?”

“Why yes, I did. I think 10 miles a day is still a reasonable target, but I’m going to change how I feel about the target. Ten miles will be a maximum that I will hit most days, but I will stop when I reach ten miles. Ten miles is about 21,300 steps, so I’ve set that as my new goal. I’ve already changed the goals on Fitbit.”

“Gary, won’t you keep trying to exceed these goals like you did before?”

“You know how I am. I like to set goals I can exceed as that is more motivating. I’m changing the way I think about them. Now I am setting goals that will prevent injury instead of setting goals that will give me the most steps.


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