Friday, May 29, 2009

Good News -- Gait Analysis Results

This is a bit long. Maybe this will be helpful to someone else.

No pain this week. I've run 26+ miles so far this week, with 7-9 planned for tomorrow, at about 8:30 mpm and have had NO pain.

Yesterday, I returned to the Sports Medicine Doc for a gait analysis so that she could see if there was something I was doing that caused my hamstring problem. It was interesting. The Physical Therapist had me warm up on the treadmill -- she said about 15 minutes. They needed to turn the AC down! It was hot in the office and it didn't take me long at all to break a serious sweat. After about 12 minutes, the PT came back and used a digital camera to video me from 5-6 different angles while I was running at a 10 mpm pace (I could have gone a long time at that pace). Then I sat down with the Doc.

It was interesting and revealing:
1. I let my arms cross in front of my body causing my hips to twist. Not only does that waste energy but it throws my stride off. I know that you're supposed to swing your arms straight and thought I did pretty well with that but the video showed clearly that I don't. It's possible (my theory) that this was exaggerated by being on a treadmill but after having her point it out, I know I do it.

2. I run in what she described as a modeling runway style. My right foot -- and, to a lesser extent, my left foot -- crosses over and lands in front of my left rather than to the right and front. It's like I'm running on the line on the road. This puts extra strain on my leg muscles.

3. My alignment (head, torso, hips, legs) is good through most of my stride -- basically a straight line. The exception is just after foot strike when I bend slightly at the hips. Again, extra stress on the leg muscles.

4. My foot strike and stride length were almost perfect with my foot landing under the center of my body and my lower leg perpendicular to the ground. I know that I've shortened my stride length (i.e., not stretching as far in front) since injuring my hamstring because the farther in front I stretched, the more I could feel the strain on my hamstring. She speculates that if she had seen me run 6 weeks ago, that she would be correcting that.

5. I overpronate -- that's no surprise but it does put extra stress on my feet and joints.

6. I tend to push off with my big toe rather than all toes. Since injuring my hamstring, I have noticed that when I consciously push off (and I end up using all of my toes to do that), there is less strain on my hamstring.
She gave me the video clips so that I could review what I'm doing. She's also given me a series of exercises to do to both strengthen certain muscles and to retrain my muscles to run correctly. These roughly correlate to the items above:
1. HANDS LOW: Practice swinging my arms straight, forearms and hands at waist height, emphasizing the backward swing to get my elbows well behind my body, **and** keeping my hips straight. This will be difficult because of a bad habit I've acquired.

2a. WHITE LINE DRILL: She wants me to follow a line on the road, making sure that I plant my feet on either side of the line rather than on the line.

2b. RUN SIDEWAYS: Run sideways to the left, crossing my right leg in front of my left, for about 50m. Repeat to the right, crossing my left leg in front of my right, for 50m. Repeat. This strengthens the hip abductors (outside of thigh at hip).

3. LUNGE STRETCH: Do a lunge, abdomen in a crunch position (basically tucking my abs), and leaning my upper body back to stretch and strengthen the hip adductors (inside front and inside muscles of the thigh).

4a. STRIDE: Concentrate on landing correctly -- keeping my stride length shorter (for now) and increase my stride rate, approaching 180 steps per minute. She thinks this is the main thing that will keep my hamstrings healthy.

4b. RUN BAREFOOT OR IN SOCKED FEET: 50m x 4 repeats on the pavement. This conditions my body for a proper footstrike. Basically, she said I will land correctly when barefoot because I'll break my heel if I strike too far in front and land on my heel!

5. FOOT FLIPS: When sitting, keep my knees together and rotate my feet outward to the outside edge of my feet. When standing, rotate my feet outward to stand on the outside edge of my feet. Advanced version is to stand on one foot and rotate my foot outward. More advanced is to stand on one foot on a pillow and rotate my foot outward. The purpose is to strengthen the muscles that control my pronation so that I pronate less.

6. PUSH OFF: Concentrate on pushing off with all of my toes rather than doing so with my big toe.
There is one thing I can't control. When I asked her why my hamstrings suddenly decided to go bad when I didn't change anything (that I know of) and had been running for almost 6 years. Her comment, with a grin: Your muscles have never been 55 years old before. She also commented about my ability to the foot flips: Most (ahem ... cough) middle-aged men who over-pronate can't do those. Basically, I'm old!

She also suggested that I consider cutting back on my running and add in some cross-training. But, when I explained that I'm about to move overseas to a place where biking or using an elliptical would be difficult (Kenya), she didn't push it. (Besides, I really like to run.)

I'm encouraged.

Run well, y'all,
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