Saturday, July 13, 2013

Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART ELEVEN

by Dino Dogan

Dogs are our connection with the past.

I've decided to present this portion of the Human-Dog Problem Tree using concrete examples of modern life which are working against our biological nature, and then present a way in which dogs can help us get past it. Unfortunately, there are thousands of these examples and it would be impossible to list them all; so we will focus on the principles of the matter and use concrete examples as case-studies. Lets get started.

Problem: We are made to run but we either dont or suffer greatly when we do.
Solution: Education, unlearning and dogs.

Many people will find this hard to believe but humans are made to run. Evolution has designed us to be incredible runners.

Would you be surprised if I told you that from a running standpoint, humans have a better, more sound design then the fastest land animal?

Without googling it, what is the fastest land animal? 

Also, without googling it, what does "google" mean?

Dogs are pretty fast, they are certainly faster then humans, and make for a good example of what I'm talking about.

Sidenote: Greyhounds are the fastest dog breed. Without google, can you guess how fast they are?

Four-legged animals are designed to run short and fast. 

This is true of dogs as well as pumas, tigers, bears, etc.

They are fast because they have four legs.

They can only run short distances because their breathing is hard-wired to their stride. When a dog extends his front and hind legs he is able to breath-in

As he contracts his body (brings his front and hind legs close together) he is breathing out because there is less space in his torso due to compression of the rib cage and internal organs.

The expansion and contraction of the lungs therefore is tightly tied into the running tempo.

All four legged animals breath-in when legs are extended, and breath-out when their legs are close together. This means that faster they run, faster they must inhale/exhale with their lungs. Breathing fast and deep is fine for a short amount of time, however, it cant be done for more then a minute or so (this varies from animal to animal, but in relative terms it is correct).

Contrast that with the human body design.

We walk/run on two legs which makes us slower. However, this also means that our breathing is independent of our stride. Our stride and speed DOES NOT dictate the speed at which our lungs expand and contract. We are able to control the EPMs (Exhale per Minute) regardless of the running tempo.

So when I say that humans are made to run, what I mean is that humans are made to engage in a particular kind of running. The long distance, 3-5mph type.

Lets examine this.

Our lungs and stomach "breathe" independently of our stride. This means that if we can maintain a certain tempo in a way that it will not deplete our energy reserves and fatigue our muscles (slow, 3-5 mph running fits the bill) we can control how fast (or slow in this case) we breathe which then allows us to replenish our muscles with oxygen and allow blood to work through our system. Our body is designed to do exactly that. Why?

It goes back to 90 percenters. Humans have spend 90% of their existence as hunters/gatherers which means they engaged in slow, long distance running just to survive. Er go, our biology evolved to turn us into slow, long distance running machines.

To drive a point home, lets wake up somewhere in Africa about 60 thousand years ago.

What are we going to do today?

We are going to perhaps eat something (assuming there is leftover food from yesterday's refrigerators 60 thousand years ago, correct?), drink water, pick up our spear and be on our way.

We might track game using our senses, but we will most likely rely on our dogs to help us root-out prey. Over time, this hunting activity has become integral part of both human and dog DNA. To learn more about this process, read

Just imagine a mind set you must engage in. 

There are no guarantees that we will find something, and if we do that we will catch it. This means that we will hunt for as long as necessary (all day) and we must cover vast distances. How do we do this?

Slow pace (3-5 mph). Anything faster and we would tire too quickly. Plus, we might miss something (failure to track) if we rush.

I say all this to get you to picture a scene from this ancient time when dog and man were spending all day together in slow run across vast distances. This is the picture that's still in your dog's mind. This is the picture thats part of our DNA.

My thesis is based on this premise. The premise that humans are designed to exist in a certain way; failure to respect our natural predispositions will result in all manner of problems; modern day ailments (diabetes, heart problems, obesity, etc) as well as mental issues ( panic attacks and anxiety, various social disorders, etc).

Living in alignment with our predispositions means living in harmony with your surroundings.

How come we don't run anymore? And furthermore, how come when we do, it hurts? I'm talking about various foot and knee problems humans suffer when we engage in any kind of running. Here is why.

Of course, for those that dont run, its simply because humans are wired to conserve energy, and these days its all too easy to conserve energy (cars, buses, motorcycles, segways, the list goes on).

Some however like to run, or have tried running, but find it painful. Why?

Nike. The worst thing to happen to running since bear traps and sink holes.

Nike is a company that has done something few companies have managed to do. They've managed to create their own market where there wasn't one. They've managed to give people something people didn't know they needed. Sony has done the same thing with Walkman.

Sony had released Walkman without any market research and it was a huge gamble for Sony. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that this was a great move. Sony has made a mountain of money selling their Walkman before others got into the game and before new technology (iPod for example) replaced it. This is an example of a company that has managed to create a market where there wasn't one.

Back to Nike.

Nike invented jogging as a hobby and a pass-time for the masses.

They also just happened to have invented a shoe to go with it.

Everyone started jogging in the 70s and 80s (tho i believe a concerted effort begen in the 50s), and this has persisted to this day. The shoe of choice for most is still Nike. But why is it Nike's fault that our feet, knees and back hurt after running?

When sneaker companies advertise their wares, the focus is always on the softness of the sneaker and the "cushion" of the heel, have you noticed? The fact that they are "bragging" about the thickness and the softness of the heel implies something, doesn't it? It implies that when you use this device (sneaker) to run, you are supposed to use your heel when landing on your foot. This of course is contrary to our biology and the way we are designed.

If you were running barefoot, would you land on your heel? 

Try exaggerating the running motion and land ONLY on your heel, see how stupid it feels.

Humans are NOT designed to run on their heels and when we do, our entire skeletal structure suffers because of it. Heel and knee problems are pretty standard, but I wouldn't be surprised if some future study finds that many back injuries are caused by improper landing and poorly-designed sneaker (which is ALL sneakers by the way).

This is a clear example of modern lifestyle and consumerism working against our biology.

So HOW do you run correctly?

The good news is you already know how to run correctly. Chances are, if you were to take off your sneakers and run barefoot (or wearing rudimentary protection on your soles, think moccasins for example), more then likely, your running posture, stride, and landing would be on the money. And yes, we can recreate this while wearing sneakers even.

4 steps to running correctly and avoiding long term injury

(same as posture required for correct execution of any workout type exercise. Read more at

1. Overall posture
  • Place your elbow on the table, make a fist and point your knuckles towards the ceiling. This will give you a visual representation of the alignment your spine, neck and head must be in while running. No leaning forward nor back, no hanging your head and looking at the ground, etc.
  • Push down on your knuckles (this emulates gravity pushing down on your spine).
  • Notice how stable this vertically aligned configuration really is.
  • Now miss-align your wrist (imitating a head looking down) and notice how weak this makes you.
  • This configuration is extremely powerful and stable if aligned properly; if not, it is equally weak and easy to compromise.

2. Breathe
  • Slow, not shallow-not deep, purposeful, meaningful breaths using both your lungs and your stomach chamber for air distribution is the way to do it.

3. Landing pads
  • DO NOT land on your heels. Nevermind the soft sneaker design and latest space age polymer. All of this is nonsense.
  • If you were barefoot you would land on the ball of your foot or slightly to the side. This is how you should land while wearing sneakers no matter the softness.
4. Smile
  • This may sound silly or simplistic bit it may be the most important factor of all. SMILE.
  • We all know that the way we feel is expressed in the way we look. When we are sad, we frown. When we are happy, we smile, etc.
  • Due to Feedback Loop (I talk about this in another one of my posts we smile and make ourselves happy. Try it, it works. By the same token, if we frown, we can make ourselves feel sad.
  • The importance of smiling while running is to enjoy this ancient activity. If we enjoy it, we will do it more often and our dog will thank us.

Finally, runners often experience something called a runner's high. 

It is this amazing feeling that makes you think you can go on forever. I cant help but think that this is a genetic memory of our past letting us know that we are engaging in the right kind of activities. Food for thought.

I know this post is running long but its the only way to connect these seemingly disparate
factors. To help summarize, here are the important points.

  • We are genetically predisposed to conserve energy. This is why most people dont run and opt for cars, bikes, trains and what not.
  • Those of us who do run, often experience foot, knee and back problems
  • The reason we suffer these physical ailments is because of the features of modern existence. In our case, this is expressed in the form of a sneaker which subtly but emphatically tells you to run incorrectly (on your heels)
  • We must unlearn. We must detect and eradicate these types of indoctrination techniques perpetrated by the culture of consumerism.
  • We must seek to understand and educate ourselves beyond whats presented to us by the indoctrination tools like media, popular culture, and even by whats considered common and accepted knowledge.
  • We must keep the promise we made to our dogs when they opted to help us in our hunt and engage in the ancient activity of dog and man running side by side

In the beginning of this post I stated that it would do the following.

Present a problem: We are made to run but we either don't or suffer greatly when we do.
And offer a solution: Education, unlearning and dogs.

I hope I've accomplished exactly that.


Dino Dogan is a blogger, writer, biker, dog trainer, singer/songwriter, Martial Artist. Dino is now busy with his DIY Blogger Net blog. He is also behind the great social media tool, Triberr. Hopefully one day he'll return to dog blogging. Meanwhile, you can connect with Dino on Twitter or Facebook.

Related articles:
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART ONE
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART TWO
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART THREE
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART FOUR 
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART FIVE 
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART SIX 
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART SEVEN
Human Dog Problem Tree - PART EIGHT
Human Dog Problem Tree - PART NINE
Human Dog Problem Tree - PART TEN 

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