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The Perfect Running Partner

By Sara Calabro

Whether it’s in recovering from a race, training for another, or enjoying a routine jog, runners need support. It’s best when this comes from people, organizations and systems that understand them.

Acupuncture is one such system, an ideal therapy for runners because it speaks their language. Here’s how:

The process is as important as the outcome.

The majority of runners, especially marathoners, are not in it to win it. They are committed to a process that teaches patience, relieves stress and gradually produces improvements. Mainstream medical interventions for running injuries—everything from Aleve to cortisone shots to orthotics—are Band-Aids that produce quick results. On race days, they can be godsends. Used habitually, in lieu of investigating what’s really going on, they allow runners to disconnect from the process of staying healthy.

In contrast, acupuncture engages the body’s own healing mechanisms to resolve root problems. With some exceptions, this does not happen overnight. It requires an investment of time and a willingness to let go of the assumption that effective medicine must provide instant gratification.

Simplicity reigns.

Unlike some other sports where fancy gadgets can improve performance—would Roger Federer be as successful if he were playing with John McEnroe’s racquet?—running is pretty bare bones. In fact, current thinking is that runners who fall for fancy shoes may actually be at a disadvantage.

Although some acupuncturists utilize additional tools, needles and cotton balls are really all that’s needed. The driving idea behind acupuncture is that we’re already in possession of everything we need to be well. Like running, acupuncture takes what’s already there and rearranges it into something positive.

It brings us closer to who we really are.

You often hear runners say, “I feel off if I don’t get in my run.” People run not because it makes them feel good; they run because it makes them feel right—in touch with their true selves, connected to what makes sense for them. Anyone can hit the gym, burn a few calories and release some stress, but running for many people is a search for something greater, a way of life.

Similarly, acupuncture helps people on their journeys to discover what health means to them. It does not rely on machines or authority figures to reveal a textbook definition of health or disease. Rather, acupuncture works with each person’s unique constitution and circumstances to arrive at a place of balance.

People who don’t do it don’t get it.

“That marathon took you five hours. Why bother?” “Why not get an extra hour of sleep?” “Don’t you get bored?” Runners know the answers to these questions deeply in their souls. They know intuitively that nothing easy is worth doing, or at least not as rewarding as something that asks more of us.

A 5am run in January is more fulfilling than 45 minutes on the elliptical. Committing to acupuncture to resolve the underlying cause of chronic heel pain is more rewarding than popping a pill for temporarily relief. People who do it get it.

If you get it, get some more. If you don’t, try it—it may kick-start the best run of your life.

Photo by Sara Calabro


Chris Primavera

Jaspar’s a star! Great article. It reminds me how making a commitment to acupuncture can really help chronic pain.

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