Download Gordon Pirie's "Running Fast and Injury Free" PDF

TitleGordon Pirie's "Running Fast and Injury Free"
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Total Pages64
Document Text Contents
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© 1996-2007 Dr John S Gilbody

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CHAPTER ONE - Introduction

CHAPTER TWO - Why Athletes Fail

CHAPTER THREE - Injuries, Technique and Shoes


CHAPTER FIVE - Weight Training

CHAPTER SIX - Diet and Vitamins


© 1996-2007 Dr John S Gilbody

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To test the shoes we designed, I ran hundreds of miles in each pair and wrote a log of the
mileage on each shoe. I then posted the shoes back to Adi so improvements could be
worked out. The biggest breakthrough we made was to find the answer to the problem of
worn steel spikes, which had cost me a better result at Helsinki. All racing shoes in those
days had fixed spikes. Once the steel had been ground away by the cinders, which I
managed to do in about 200 miles of hard running over a week or two, the shoes had to
be discarded, even though the upper might still be perfectly good. I discussed this
problem with Dassler, and asked why the shoes didn't have steel spikes that could be
replaced. I was throwing away shoes by the dozen. The answer was surprising simple: we
came up with the idea of screwing the spikes in and out of the shoes so that the steel
could be replaced, and, even better, changed to suit different track surfaces. Because
Dassler was willing to work closely with an athlete like me to improve the design of his
shoes, his company became the first to come out with track shoes with replaceable
spikes. Ironically, I nearly lost my amateur status at that time because every box of
Adidas shoes contained a picture of me running a world record in Adi Dassler's bright
red track shoes! (Although I never made any money out of this - a fact that seems
incredible in comparison with today's hyper-commercial world).
I had a difficult time getting Adidas shoes introduced into England. I tried initially in
1953 and 1954 to have the shoes sold in English sports shops, but failed. I took a pair of
Adidas shoes into one famous Lower Regent Street shop, Lillywhites, and was told by
the buyer there that: “These things will never sell!”.
In recent years, I have had ideas about running shoes which are just as revolutionary as
those pursued with Adi Dassler in the 1950s, but my ideas are just too radical and
advanced for Adidas. Sadly, Adi died a few years ago, and his huge corporation has
become completely divorced from the grass roots of the sport. For example, I had a
meeting with Horst Dassler (who took over the management of Adidas some time ago),
at which I told him I thought that certain Adidas shoes were being constructed according
to improper ideas. His answer was that the company had spent a large sum of money on a
“motion study” of runners before designing that particular pair of shoes. I laughed, and
told him that he could have paid me half that amount, and I would have come up with a
better design. I told Horst Dassler that Adidas obtained flawed results in their expensive
study because the runners they examined were not running properly. Sadly, he ignored
my suggestions, and it seems that running shoes have become little more than an injury-
producing, speed-reducing fashion statement.
Finally, I have two brief observations to make concerning the materials with which
running shoes are constructed. Firstly, if you are running correctly your shoes will wear
out initially at a point directly under your toes. You can prove this by taking off your
shoes and going for a short run (on a safe surface, of course) in bare feet. Very quickly
you will find you develop blisters on your toes. If you run correctly, the same thing will
happen to your shoes; they will wear out under the toes. I can wear out a pair of standard
jogging shoes, made with a thin layer of material rolled up under the toe, in just one long
hard run on abrasive pavement. It is very important, therefore, for the toe area of your
running shoes to be constructed of the toughest possible material, and to be of adequate
The second point concerns the material that makes up the sole of your shoe, because if
the sole is too soft, you will lose stability. Any soft, mushy material between your foot
and the ground will decrease the amount of stability the shoe provides, and will also
absorb much of the power you should be using to run with (try running on a trampoline
or a high jump pad; it is simply not possible). Buy shoes that are not too soft, therefore,
and do not under any circumstances put anything soft inside your shoes. You will defeat

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the purpose of buying a firm, lightweight shoe in the first place. Instead of looking for
padding, learn to run properly, so that you stop punching holes in the ground with your

Purley, 1946 (can you spot Gordon?)

© 1996-2007 Dr John S Gilbody

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something is wrong (classically associated with a raised temperature and other
symptoms, as in flu). Listen to your body.
An example of a man who did not heed this advice was Mike Wells-Cole, British
Orienteering Champion. He ran for two hours on a Sunday morning despite an extremely
high pulse - he was suffering from influenza. He was dead by 5 p.m. on the same day. I
had offered him advice, but sadly he disregarded it, and tragically paid for it with his life.
The Royal Navy has a similar backward approach to fitness. I recently went aboard a
Royal Navy Carrier in Auckland to offer a day of social running to any athletes on board.
I was told by the ship's sports officer that there were no runners on board. Sometime
previously they had tried a fitness test to see how far each seaman could run in a
specified time. Several seamen dropped dead, so the running was stopped. The correct
conclusion to be drawn from this catastrophe was that the crew were in a woeful physical
condition, and obviously were not fit enough to fight a war. Moreover, the activity
chosen to test their fitness was inappropriate, and even stupid. The proper sequence of
events should have been to give all the crew (including the officers, who are the worst of
the lot as far as fitness is concerned) adequate training before the trial was undertaken, so
that they might be brought up to standard. Instead, a silly test was administered, and
when the sailors died they simply cancelled all running - creating a Catch 22 situation.
Another example was the late Alan Brown, an intelligent Bank Manager from New
Zealand, who was trying very hard to beat me in Orienteering. He started a race shortly
after a “civilised” breakfast, but in the forest 200 metres after the start, he became sick,
and choked to death. Again I had tried to advise him, but he too would not listen. You
must leave at least two hours between finishing a meal and starting a run.

Errors Specific To Diet

ANOREXIA - It is not uncommon for college teams in the US to insist that their girls
control their weight by dieting, without correct nutritional guidance; the scales being the
only criterion. The result is that some young women stop eating to “make the weight”
whenever they are tested. A weakened condition caused by not eating enough nutritious
food can lead to many problems, sickness and even broken bones. Female runners should
instead aim to get faster by getting stronger and healthier with hard training and eating
nutritious foods and taking vitamin supplements.

SPORTS ANAEMIA - This is another common problem amongst athletes who train
hard which is likely to be caused by poor nutrition. Without proper nutrition, it is
impossible to absorb the amount of iron necessary to carry out hard training day after
day. Even if there is an abundance of iron available in the diet, inadequate nutrition may
prevent the athlete from getting maximum iron absorption, and the blood count will
plummet. Vitamin B12 and folic acid (other haematinics) are also critical in such cases.
Have a regular blood test to establish the level of haemoglobin in your body. Under a
doctor's guidance, take iron supplements and improve your nutrition to raise your blood
count, if necessary. If you are anaemic, don't look for a miracle cure. It can take as long
as six months to improve your blood count - if you take it easy. It may be necessary to
take a period of rest while you rebuild your blood. Then resume training as a healthier
person. If you continue to train hard you are likely to have a greater set-back.
Once again, it is important to work on this problem with a physician who is aware of the
needs of a training athlete. A doctor used to the “average” person will tell you that a
blood count (i.e. haemoglobin level) of 12 g/dl is adequate. If you are going to be an

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athlete, it will need to be at least 14 g/dl! Kip Keino and Jim Ryun had blood counts of
over 19 g/dl when they were running at their best.
Training at altitude will stimulate the body to develop a higher blood count due to the
lack of oxygen in the air (which increases the secretion of a hormone called
erythropoietin, leading to a stimulation of the bone marrow to produce more red blood
cells). Athletes training at higher altitudes will therefore need to supplement their diet
more, due to the increased demands that this type of training makes on the body.
American Bill McChesney told me that he could not run consistently hard at high altitude
- he had to resort to swimming and cycling, in lieu of running, to keep his muscles going.
If he had improved his nutrition while training at altitude, he would have found he could
have trained very effectively, and perhaps would even have regained his position as
national champion and record-holder.
Finally, avoid the use of antibiotics. When you put these substances into your body, you
destroy many of the good qualities you have built up with proper nutrition and hard
training. Antibiotics are a last resort life-and-death treatment. If you take them, rest
afterwards. Do not exercise for a week. Anne Audain made a dangerous error on three
different occasions, when she attempted to run hard after receiving antibiotic injections.
She did not tell me she had received an injection - had I known, I would have stopped her
from running for several days. Anne collapsed after a hard training session at the
Otahuhu track on that Tuesday, and collapsed again during a major championship race
four days later. Subsequently, she was ill for a couple of weeks.
The same rule applies to surgery. The knife is meant to be used in extreme cases.
Surgeons are for bed-ridden people on their last legs. Avoid the knife if at all possible.
I have found that the following books contain information you may find useful. You will
find contradictions from one book to the next, but each of these publications contains the
basics that you will need to know in order to make effective use of diet and vitamin
supplementation, and thus maximise your level of health and athletic performance:

Eat To Win, by Dr. Robert Haas.

The Complete Guide to Health and Nutrition, by Gary Null.

A Guide to Vitamins, by John Marks.

The Vitamin Bible, by Earl Mindell.

Eating to Win - Food Psyching for the Athlete, by Francis Sheridan.

Your Personal Vitamin Profile, by Dr. Michael Colgan.

© 1996-2007 Dr John S Gilbody

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