29 May 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,

27 May 2009

No (Hamstring) Pain, All Gain

6.8 miles at a pace of 8:28 mpm this morning. It even included some fartleks. No hamstring pain or even tightness -- none, nada, hakuna -- first time in about 3 weeks! Overall pace is still off from my normal daily runs but I'm really trying not to push it.

Run well, y'all,

26 May 2009

Encountering the World of Islam

There is a fascination in the US with Islam. I think it is rooted in a number of issues: the ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Israel, the events of 9/11, the war on terror, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, events in Iran, etc. And, for many Americans, Islam is different and unknown and that intrigues us.

The beginning of the following video clip puts a personal face on Islam -- it helps one understand that the concerns of Muslims in the US are very similar to those of all other Americans. The video is produced from a Christian evangelistic perspective -- I don't apologize for that but do want to be upfront about what you will see -- I'm not trying to come in through the back door on anyone. :) Nor am I promoting this particular organization (though I do think they have some excellent resources for Christians who want to understand Islam and know how to minister to Muslims and to share Jesus with them).

If you're interested in learning more, the book, Encountering the World of Islam, is described here -- and available for purchase. (DISCLAIMER: I am in no way connected with this organization nor will I profit from you visiting the site or buying the book.)

On the running front. My post from yesterday grew out of frustration and a bit of fear about what might happen today when I ran. But, though today's run was very hard for some reason, my hamstrings felt as good as or better than any time in the last 3 weeks. I ran 6.4 miles at a pace of 8:30 mpm -- still slower than normal and with a shortened stride. Maybe I've turned the corner but I won't hold my breath as I've thought that before.

Run well, y'all,

25 May 2009

This Makes No Sense!

No, I'm not referring to the insanity of an economy that is dependent on people spending more and more and more each year! My hamstring is the issue.

OK, last week but one I go to the doc on Tuesday and hadn't run in 3 days. On Wednesday, I take it slow and do 3+ with no trouble. Gradually increase speed (not intentionally, it just happens) and distance until that Saturday, I ran a total of almost 9 in 3 segments (.6, 5, 3.3) at an average pace of 9:53.

Sunday, I flew to Denver and didn't run that day. Monday, I ran 6.7 miles at 8:12 mpm with no pain -- well, OK, I was sucking wind at 5400' above sea level but I didn't even know I was going that fast. Tuesday, I head out and the hamstring was a wee bit tight but I'm fine through 3.8 miles at 8:38 mpm. I turned a corner and my hamstring grabbed me hard! Why? I have no idea. Wednesday, I tested it but 2-3 steps was all it took to let me know that running would be a bad idea so I walked at a very moderate pace for about 6 blocks. Thursday, I ran 4.2 miles at 9:04 with only moderate discomfort. Friday, 4.2 miles at 9:00 with only slight discomfort. Saturday, a total of 8.5 miles (3 segments of .6, 6.2, and 1.7 miles) at 8:52 with very little discomfort. Today, 6 miles at 8:37 and felt really good. What will tomorrow hold?

I cannot figure out what I'm doing or not doing to irritate my hamstring -- that's what makes no sense.

Run well, y'all,

18 May 2009

Running In the Shadow of Rockies

What a beautiful place to run! I'm in Denver for a meeting of our Trustees and for the confirmation of employment of new folks headed to Africa (7 units to Sub-Saharan Africa). This is the view out of my 6th floor room -- snow-covered Rockie Mountains behind the city of Denver. God is an artist.

We're at just over 5300' above sea level but it's like a plateau. Elevation changes on my route this morning were no more than 46' -- it was basically flat. That was a surprise. Perfect morning for running with the temperature at 6:00 sitting right at 52° and the humidity at 58%. When I finished, it was 58° and 48% humidity. So very pleasant. The sun was bright, painfully so at times. Not far from our hotel, Denver has put in really nice pathways that are, for the most part, well away from the roads -- some are wide concrete paths, others are hard-packed dirt with very small gravel. I put in 6.7 miles in 55:04 -- my best pace (8:12.8 mpm) in 2 weeks since pulling my hamstring. Here's my route (I added a bit at the end -- to the end of the block and back into the hotel parking lot to get to 6.7 mi.).

The hamstring is doing fine. It's still tight; pain is more low-level soreness now (roughly 1.5/10). Heading to meetings now.

Run well, y'all,

12 May 2009

Hamstring Report

Just got home from the doctor, Dr. Teresa Stadler, and the news is not too bad.

I have a very small tear in the middle hamstring muscle (semitendinosus -- shaded blue in the graphic to the left) -- it should heal fine. She's said NO stretching, period. No NSAID's (ibuprofen, Advil, etc.). Eccentric exercises to strengthen the right hamstring. There's already some minor atrophy after only 12 days -- I apparently have favored my right leg when I have run over those days. I go back for recheck, gait analysis, and massage therapy in 2 weeks. I can run up to the point of awareness, so will be limited to less than 5K and probably, at first, to 2-2.5 miles easy.

Cool thing: the gait analysis may show some weirdness in my gait that she suspects may be causing the problem. If so and if I will do the work to correct it, not only should I prevent hamstring trouble in the future but she said I may be able to knock 15 seconds off my mile time. I laughed and said maybe I could reach my goal of a <45:00 10K -- she said that was her goal this year.

The other problem I am having is tenderness just in front of and adjacent to my inside right ankle. The doctor said the ankle and hamstring are not related. She pretty well ruled out a stress fracture. First, with a stress fracture I should have definitely not been able to run and that's caused me no pain, at all, when running. Second, as long as I've been running, an ankle stress fracture would be unusual. Most conclusively, rubbing across the tendon caused more discomfort than rubbing along the bone. I have a topical anti-inflammatory for the tendon and have to march on my heels with my toes pointed up while I brush my teeth -- in other words, 2-3 times per day for 1-2 minutes each time. If it doesn't clear up, she'll image it to be absolutely certain it's not a stress fracture.

So, maybe a short, easy run in the morning is possible after all.

Run well and pain-free, y'all,

10 May 2009

Best Excuse Not to Run in the Morning...

...and the funniest comment I've read on a blog in awhile.

From Vanilla, at Half Fast:
Lately I’ve been getting to the office a lot earlier (so much for banker’s hours) and I frequently work from an office that is much farther from my house which means that if I wanted to get in a short [morning] run at my lumbering pace I’d need to wake up somewhere around 4am and as I’m sure you’re all painfully aware there is no such thing as 4am. So essentially it’s not even physically possible for me to run in the mornings anymore.
I'm still going to do my runs in the early mornings -- well, whenever my hamstring will let me run -- but if I even need a good excuse, thanks, Vanilla, for providing the perfect excuse!

As for me, I'm pretty frustrated. When I got up yesterday, my hamstring felt great. I headed out to go meet my group -- I do my warm-up in the .62 miles from the house to our meeting place -- and it felt a little sore but no problems. We headed out at an easy pace and no problems. But, we hit a flat spot and all of a sudden I had problems. It actually stopped me for a few seconds. I was able to complete 6.7 miles at an 8:30 mpm pace but was hurting from about mile 2.25 or so. I'm calling the doctor tomorrow. :(

Run well, y'all,

06 May 2009

Destined to Run? Just Not for Speed

It must have been fate that I would wind up loving to run. This is what was happening in the world of running the day I was born:

Unfortunately, it was not fate that I would be as fast as Roger Bannister -- or have the mental stamina that he had.

Disappointing day for me with running. My hamstring felt good when I got up. So, out the door (56° -- YES!). But, after a mile or so, the tightness was back. I ended up running 5.25 miles. This is the strangest thing. It doesn't hurt when walking. It hurts more going uphill than down or on flats. It actually hurts most as my leg straightens just before heel strike. And, the pain is in the upper hamstring. It makes me wonder if I have a tight piriformis muscle that is causing my hamstring (specifically, the semimembranosus muscle). Back to the ice and NSAID's and rest. :(

Run well, y'all,

04 May 2009

Hamstring Soreness

Well, after a 3 day hiatus in my running, I headed out this morning to see what the hamstring would do. I had hoped it would be OK and I could do 7+ miles. Well, the hamstring wasn't perfect but the traffic kept me from doing 7+. I couldn't believe it -- it was so heavy that I couldn't cross the road. Of course, I had slept in a bit and didn't leave until 7:15 so I was fighting going to work traffic.

My hamstring was sore, especially on uphill segments. But, it didn't seize up on me like last week. I guess it's overuse but really don't know what precipitated it. I'll see what it feels like in the morning. For now, I'm off to ice it.

Ended up doing 6.16 at a 8:07 mpm pace. Visiting my mother-in-law while we speak at a couple of Columbia, SC churches. So, I had a change of scenery.

Run well, y'all,