Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Getting Started on the Right Foot

You may know that the last few months of 2017 were not great running months for me. In fact, I wasn’t running at all. First, another shin/calf “injury” popped up that made running uncomfortable, then a random and very painful back injury took me out completely. While frequent visits to my chiropractor and acupuncturist, and rest, got me back to running, I knew that for sustained health, I needed to fix the underlying problem: my running form.

Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to partner with Therapydia Denver to do just that. Never heard of them? Therapydia is a national network of physical therapy clinics, but they actually do a lot more than just physical therapy.

Over the next few months I’ll be posting about my experience working with Therapydia Denver to fix my running form and (hopefully) stave off more injuries. Since the goal is to keeping running as long as I can.

We'll start with my first session, the Run Assessment:

I met with Casey McNitt, the clinic director, for my run assessment. It's an hour long session that starts off like most first sessions with a PT or other medical practitioner - I shared my medical history, experience with running, goals, and the issues I'd recently been dealing with. If you know me, you know that'll take a while. Thankfully, he wasn't deterred. 

His goal is to help me be the best runner I can be, by identifying issues with my running form and determining a plan to get me on the right path. 

After talking through my history, we went to the treadmill. I warmed up for a few minutes walking at a brisk pace before I was instructed to bump up the pace a bit to a comfortable run. While running, he took videos of my form, from the back and side, then focused on my feet.

We then looked at the videos together and he walked me through what he saw. And what we saw, wasn't pretty.

From the Back
  • The video showed - and you can see in the screenshots below - that I need to strengthen my glutes. Rather than staying even, my hips drop with each foot fall. As Casey explained, the right hip drop shows weakness in my left side gluteus medius. To compensate, I lean left with my upper body. While it takes the load off my weak glute, it can create other problems with my hips, low back, neck and more. 
  • My arms swing front to back in a straight line, rather than crossing over my body. Did you know they were supposed to? I guess I didn't. By crossing in front, your core has to do more work, taking the pressure off your lower body a little. 

From the Side
  • I run straight up, almost leaning backward. I think this is a holdover from my years in dance and marching band. Good for marching band, not good for running. Alternatively, by leaning forward, I can naturally propel myself forward and it'll help address how my feet land, because...
  • I am a heel striker. A quiet one, but a heel striker nonetheless. The way my heel hits, all the force is going straight up the chain, which is also likely playing a big role in my injuries. 

After looking at these videos and breaking it all down, Casey put me to work. Back on the treadmill, he had me shuffle with a fast walk to get the feeling of my full foot hitting the ground. Then, leaning forward (so far that it felt like I was going to go head over heels), pick up the pace.

Immediately, we saw a little improvement. See how I'm leaning a bit forward in the image below and a bit more of my left foot is hitting the treadmill? It's not a huge difference, but it was a good start. (And isn't it so cool to be able to see the improvements in video?!)

Before wrapping up, we headed out to the gym where he showed me a few exercises to strengthen my glutes (hint: keep up those monster walks) and a drill to help me get the feeling of leaning forward and striking the floor with a flatter foot.

Since this first session, I've been incorporating the exercises into my workouts a few times a week and using the tips and drills. One thing Casey mentioned while watching a video of another runner with a similar issue, is that she kept her feet relaxed. That idea really stuck with me and has become a sort of mantra for me.

I'm excited to see how my running improves over the next sessions with Therapydia. If you found this post interesting, I hope you'll come back to hear how it goes!

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

No comments: