I'm so pleased that he was right.
Yesterday morning, Amy and I trekked out to Gainesville, VA, to work with Dr. Maggs at Active Spine and Sport. Amy attended a presentation he did a few months ago and was impressed with him, and he came highly recommended by several other people, including Cristina, who did a gait analysis of her own a month or so back. We decided that we'd drive out early to avoid traffic and do an easy run before our appointments. As many of you know, the weather in DC lately has been a bit hot, and our "4-5 miles" was quickly downgraded to "4 at most" and then "well, we need to do 3 or it doesn't feel like a real run." My shin was nagging me a bit, so we stopped to walk a few times, and ended up running around the parking lot just waiting for the watch to beep "3." I can't wait for winter. But as we dripped sweat all over the reception desk, I also had the thought that, I really love that this is my lifestyle. Waking up an hour earlier to get an easy run in seemed like a completely normal suggestion.
Amy went first, and I'll let her tell her own story, but I was pretty fascinated by the process. He was able to pick out pretty tiny things in her gait and demonstrate how they were affecting her body and give a string of suggestions on how to work on them.
When he started playing my video, the first problem was immediately obvious. I'm not sure if I always do this - I mean, I must, video doesn't lie, but I've never seen it before in pictures - but my feet were crossing over the midline with every step I took. Essentially, it looked like I was running on a tightrope. Dr. Maggs explained that this was contributing to my pronation because of the angle of the femur, and that it was making my adductors work harder (which is definitely why they are always tight and, in the words of a PT, "have a death grip on the inside of my leg."). This could also be contributing to my recently naggy shin. Fortunately, the solution to this one is simple - stop doing it. He told me to go and run on a track and concentrate on letting my feet land on either side of a lane line. He also said that if I can fix this, I probably won't need such a huge stability shoe anymore because it will probably also fix my pronation. (As a bonus, it might ALSO fix my horrible chafing issues!) I used to hugely pronate on both sides, and when I was video-taped at RRS a month or so back, I was only pronating (but a LOT) on my right side. Yesterday on the video, I was pronating very slightly on both sides, perhaps a tiny bit more on the right, but it was much better than what was going on even a month ago.
The video also showed that I have a mild heel-strike going on, but again, not nearly as bad as the hot mess of early June (not to mention my entire life to date):
Instead, it showed that I was still heel-striking but my knee was very slightly flexed when my foot lands on the ground, and he said this was acceptable. The knee being bent means that far less impact is going up the leg than if the knee is straight. He did recommend that both of us do some barefoot exercises just to work on soft landings and reducing impact, but he also said that plenty of runners heel-strike without issue. I also was very slightly over-striding, but again, nothing like the disaster you see above, and he measured my cadence and said it was right on.
During the physical exam, he discovered that my pelvis doesn't move very much. He had me twist to one side and then the other, and my shoulders are doing all the twisting. He gave me a very simple exercise to help this, and I think that this is more of a performance/power issue than an injury-prevention issue. He also had me do some lunges during the physical exam and that's where I learned that I was pushing back off my right foot from the toes instead of the heel. This apparently is my glutes continuing to try and dodge doing any work at all. Another easy fix - just stop doing it. Being aware of it will fix most of the problem, and fixing this will help with my gait because I'll be teaching my glutes to activate during movement. After testing my strength, he said that my glutes are strong (a month ago Dr. Paul called them "incredibly weak" - hello, improvement!) and came to the same conclusion that I have recently - the strength is there, now it's just a matter of teaching my body new habits while running. He gave me a handful of easy drills for this.
All of these things were minor tweaks instead of huge problems, although when I showed him some race pictures from earlier in the year, he said that he wished he could have video-taped me back then, because it looks like I was a complete mess. I'm very glad to have concrete evidence that I'm making progress. He told me that everything Dr. Paul is doing is right on the mark, which I thought as well since I'm so clearly getting stronger and am in less pain, but it's great to have affirmation that I'm moving in the right direction. I might always struggle with injury, but I'm hoping that all the work I'm doing on form will help me stay healthy and run clean and strong and for longer than 4 months at a time. I will take that over huge PRs or 7:04 average pace any day.
Have a great weekend, everyone! I'll be attacking the Reston hills again and slogging through a 5K. What are your plans to stay cool?