Friday, September 20, 2013

Running Reform

If you've been around for a while (sorry), you'll remember that I injured my back/butt/everything in the spring of 2011.
It took several months of pretty intense physical therapy with a good solid dose of gait analysis and strength training to put me back together again.  In July of 2011, Amy and I made a trip out to Active Spine and Sport to see Dr. Kevin Maggs, touted by our running coach as being one of the smartest gait analysis docs around.  I posted about my visit, but it was some running on video, an exam, and then a few exercises to keep me growing stronger in the right places (some of which I still do today).  One of the biggest problems with my gait at that point was that I was leaving my leg too far out in front of me at footstrike - overstriding - landing with a straight leg and a locked knee, which was letting my heel absorb a lot of the ground impact and causing me to be crabby about not being able to run very much or often.  I did a lot of work that summer to retrain my body - mainly to let my foot land closer to the center of my body instead of way out in front, but I also did a lot of glute activation work (this is also still part of my strength training).  Over the past two years, I have been mostly injury-free.  I had a big whoops with some new shoes that I got into too quickly, and I've had a few niggles to work out here and there, but I've gotten through two ironman races, a handful of half-ironman races, a marathon, and thirteen half marathons since then without my broken ass reappearing to haunt me.  
Since then, Dr. Maggs has started a company called Running Reform, and the point of it is that you don't have to drive all the way to Gainesville, VA (so much traffic on 66) to have him gait analyze you.  I haven't yet found a PT in Colorado that I trust and it seemed like a good time for a check-up (post-ironman fallout), so I signed up.  The process was easy - I think the hardest part was dragging the poet out to the street to videotape me running back and forth on the sidewalk.
There's a short video to watch on the website that tells you how to make your videos (which I did not watch which is why my shirt is hanging out, but really, you should watch it).  Uploading them only took a few minutes, and then I was able to pick out a time slot for my consultation.  The time slot has to be further away than three days, to give Dr. Maggs the chance to review your videos and, if needed, send you additional videotaping homework.  When you upload your videos, you fill out a short form and one of the questions is whether you are getting a gait analysis in the interest of injury or performance.  Since I haven't been struggling with injury lately (knocks on wood throws salt over shoulder sends a short prayer to running gods), I chose performance.  
The first thing Dr. Maggs asked me to do after reviewing my videos was a test of my ankle dorsiflexion.  He does this through Running Reform by sending you a short video, you watch it and either videotape yourself doing the test or simply do the test and send him the results.  It was a simple test (that I found out later, I massively failed).

When we met for our consultation, the first thing we talked about was gait analysis for performance rather than injury prevention.  In discussing mechanics are related to performance, the idea is to find out if there are any mechanical factors that may be limiting performance - understanding that there are other factors outside of gait to be considered separately as well.  Speed of running is determined by cadence multiplied by stride length.  My cadence has always behaved pretty well, landing in the 180ish "sweet spot" of cadence.  So we took a look at stride length.  Here I am being compared to some professional triathletes racing a half-ironman, all of them with thinner thighs than I (this was a pretty serious blow to my ego, thanks Dr. Maggs):
So, my stride length kind of sucks.  Or, to be more accurate, the hip extension of my trailing leg is...not happening.  A short stride (stride being described as "how far you fly" which I love) means that I can't produce as much force when my foot pushes off the ground.  There could be a few reasons for that, but as we worked through them (ankle dorsiflexion and hip flexion testing), he was able to pinpoint my crappy ankle dorsiflexion as the likely cause of my short stride (ankle dorsiflexion tester guy also has thinner thighs).
So how do I fix it?  A few ways.  Dr. Maggs gave me some ankle stretches to do that will (hopefully) increase my dorsiflexion.  He also gave me some very specific drills and workouts to include in my training for the translation & activation piece.  When I was first hurt back in 2011, everyone could tell me that I needed to make my glutes stronger, but it wasn't until I went through gait analysis with him that I finally learned how to activate my glutes while running - the second piece of the "fixing my gait" puzzle.  

And finally, just for fun, instead of comparing me to pros with 2% body fat, he compared 2013 me with 2011 me.  Mostly small changes, but with great effect (shorter hair, better posture, same thighs).
If you live in a town where you don't have good access to these kinds of resources, I can strongly recommend going through this process with Running Reform.  Even if you do have access to a lot of resources, it can be pretty difficult to wade through everyone that is available to find someone who really knows what they are talking about in regard to endurance athletes & runners (please see: my ongoing search for a physical therapist in Boulder, which I did not anticipate to be nearly as difficult as it has been).  I left our consultation with a brain overflowing with information about how to become a stronger and faster runner, and I'm now a firm fan of the gait analysis check-up, because even though nothing is technically "wrong" with me right now (and there's a loaded statement), I was still able to get a good list of items to work on so my run can move forward.  Plus, Dr. Maggs is smart and awesome and didn't mind the millions of little questions that I peppered him with throughout (and after) our session.  AND he told me that I looked like a runner that was probably mostly injury-free, which is always nice to hear even if my butt does stick pretty far out the back.  

10 comments:

  1. You know i have always thought my LEFT Sided issues were from my lack of extension and glute recruitment on the Right. You are so onto something here bc YES indeed, often the contralateral side pays for the messed up side. ITs like the right says " I am going to be tight and not fire, so you, on the left can hurt." what a deal!
    So glad you have your homework and you can work on this, it will help SOO MUCH!!

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  2. So cool. I love this analysis and the fact you can do it all online!

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  3. I can totally see myself contacting this guy! I need more specifics to fix. :)

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  4. This is amazing. If I'm ever able to run again I'm totally doing it. I definitely need glute activation work.

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  5. What an interesting post. It has made me think about my own stride,for sure! I always think about stride with the leading foot, and I have never really thought much about the trailing foot. Thanks!

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  6. Neat, Katie! Really interesting - and it sheds some light on all of this gait analysis that you've done. I never really knew what the goal was.

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  7. Fascinating! Thanks for the heads-up about this service, which I now have on my list of "things I really ought to do sometime soon."

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  8. Wow, very cool! It has to be great to see your stride adjust over the years. and seeing improvements is always fun.

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  9. This is really, really cool - Thank you for sharing! I definitely need to find someone to do some gait analysis on me since I currently am nursing a semi busted back/hip/ass situation and I can't seem to train for a race longer than 13.1 miles without suffering a season ending injury.

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  10. I can totally see myself plaguing this guy. Coolage.

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