Saturday, January 27, 2018

Becoming a Stronger Runner, Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts sharing my experience working with Therapydia Denver, as we fix my running form. If you want to know how this started, I suggest you check out this post.

After a few weeks of shuffling on the treadmill at the gym, monster walking through our kitchen, and reminding myself to relax (my feet) while I run, I was back at Therapydia for another session with Casey.

Coming straight from a long day at work, I spent a few minutes on the treadmill to get my legs moving and warm up a bit. Since the point of these sessions is to improve my running form, it's important to see if I've made any progress from visit to visit, so that was first on the agenda.

Casey took some videos as I ran on the treadmill from the same angles as the first time so we could see if anything improved. Running forms don't typically change overnight, so I fully expect that this process to take a while, but I do hope to see a bit of improvement with each session.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the new video (below right) next to the original, showed some improvement! I'm leaning forward more and while both feet are hitting the ground at a better angle, my left foot is looking better than the right.

You can see by the green lines below that my left leg was stretching out farther during the first session than this time. The more out stretched the leg, the more likely the heel is going to take the brunt of the landing. Improvement!

My hips are still dropping, which is the sign of weak glutes, but that's going to take a lot of time (and monster walks) to see a real difference, so he wasn't surprised to see this and encouraged me not to get discouraged.

This is definitely a process that requires dedication and patience. Even with all the great help, direction and exercises that I'm getting from Casey at Therapydia, I'm the only one who can actually do the work. If I don't do it, nothing will change.

I've learned I need to do my exercises at the gym or just after I get home each morning because I'm usually so mentally exhausted after work that the last thing I want to do is my exercises. Even spending 5 minutes rolling out before bed it tough enough.

After the treadmill test, I was given a few more exercises to work on. This week: core.

The first exercise he gave me works the deep core muscles, the transverse abdominus. It's not like a plank where you can tell without much trouble if you're doing it correctly or not. This one is pretty subtle so it took a few tries to get it right, and then I had to do it a few more times to try and ingrain how it felt in my memory so I could do it at home on my own.

The other exercise for the week was the standard bridge - with two feet on the floor and also lifting one foot off - with an exercise band just above my knees to provide resistance. There's a reason why some exercises are so common, because they work. The bridge is one of them - great for strengthening abs, low back and glutes.

Like monster walks, I've done bridges for years, but it's a good reminder that I need to do them regularly. In fact, Casey instructed me to do these exercises - along with the ones from the first session - three days a week, advising against doing them just before a long or hard run.

Beyond the exercises and keeping my feet relaxed while I run, he also gave me a cadence goal - 170 steps per minute. With a quicker cadence I'll keep my strides shorter and in turn, should land more mid-foot. The trouble I'm still having with this though is running a faster cadence without running faster, because my legs and lungs can't keep up with it for long.

For this, Casey recommended breaking down each mile. Start by running the faster cadence for a quarter mile, then back to my regular cadence for the rest; over time skewing more of the mile towards 170 steps for minute. This is what I've spent the least amount of time on, but I'll get there.

More work is ahead. I have another session this week so stayed tuned for more about how this is going. I'm curious, if you've successfully increased your cadence, what's the secret?

This post is sponsored by Therapydia. All opinions are my own.

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