The age-old saying, “no pain, no gain” used by athletic coaches in the weight room is a lie.
The real way to improve health and fitness should not involve any pain, according to Lt. Col. (Dr.) Mark Cucuzzella — an Air Force Reservist and professor at West Virginia University’s School of Medicine.
In fact, long-term health and fitness is found by maintaining the body and allowing it to recover after activity. The difference between healthy running and fitness running was covered in a special seminar at the McChord Field Fitness Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord March 10.
“You’re constantly putting inflammation (in) your body, all in the pursuit of fitness,” Cucuzzella said. “But if you run healthy, the PT test will take care of itself.”
There have been problems with running-related injuries throughout the Department of Defense. Danielle Knutson, health promotion manager for the 62nd Medical Squadron on McChord Field, said her primary effort has been trying to teach service members on JBLM to run more effectively.
Knutson and many health managers throughout the DOD have found that service members might push themselves too hard in order to compete with their peers, leading to more inefficient running.
“They’re trying to keep up with someone who is in better shape and they end up with bad running form,” Knutson said.
In Cucuzzella’s eyes, it’s not a matter of how fast someone can run. His goal is to make people acquire a better sense of health.
Healthy running starts with a proper posture beginning with the balance of the feet. It also means being able to have the proper back and neck posture to keep the spine secured and stable.
If the body comes down with bad form on a running step, the spine can be affected with “sheer force,” possibly leading to herniated discs and other medical problems.
“No bone in our body is designed for sheer force,” Cucuzzella said.
Muscles have to be given time to recover or else the body cannot get stronger, he said. Recovery also has to include the use of foam rollers to properly work out the knots, a process he said is like “tissue flossing.”
“If I have a tight knot in my ankle tissue and I stretch it, I’m going to make the knot tighter,” Cucuzzella said.
Posture can also affect breathing. A body that is not properly aligned can have difficulty breathing slowly, which helps get oxygen to the brain and muscles that need it during the exercise.
Cucuzzella said someone who breathes too fast while running is going to lose energy a lot quicker and struggle in tackling tall hills.
“Building endurance is slowing down and allowing your capillaries to build,” he said.
One of the keys to running better is to have better health. Diet — the kind of fuel put into one’s body — is also important. People who gain weight find that they often consume too much sugar and not enough healthy foods.
“There’s nothing that can replace what is found in the perimeter of the commissary,” Cucuzzella said.
Cucuzzella has toured multiple military bases for the past six years and is considered a national expert in healthy running, according to Col. Daniel Murray of the 62nd MS. The two worked together while Murray was stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, two years ago.
Murray said having an expert like Cucuzzella come to JBLM helps combat the misconception of how people view running.
“The principles (Cucuzzella) teaches not only help teach us how to run efficiently for speed but also avoid injury and damaging knees, ankles and backs due to shock absorption,” Murray said.