Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Changing My Gait - A Visual Progression

 I've been talking about changing my gait and the work that I've been doing at the Runner's Academy for the last little bit but I've never actually gotten down to the nitty gritty.  Firstly, what IS the Runner's Academy?

This is their mission statement and vision:  The Runner’s Academy is a health and wellness studio offering Chiropractic, Massage Therapy, Personal Training and Run Technique Coaching. The Runner’s Academy is targeting the running community of all skill levels and ages, by bringing education, treatment and performance training to this specific clientele. We will teach you how to Move better and Run faster!

They offer gait analysis, massage therapy, personal training, acupuncture, Chriopractic therapy AND they even have an Alter G treadmill!  It's a Runner's NirvanaI have the lovely Sasha Gollish to thank for recommending this place to me.  Specifically one of the founders, Dr. Kris Sheppard.   Herein referred to as the Running Wizard.

I had been getting frustrated with my lack of progress in terms of my knees.  I had gotten my glutes and hamstrings firing but I was still having problems.  I was working on adjusting my gait but I couldn't seem to put it all together.  Enter the Running Wizard.

My first visit was an evaluation.  I was ill prepared for it as it was a last minute appointment.  I at least had some shorts but I was wearing a sweater and borrowed running shoes (Sketchers Go Runs, which were AWESOME btw).   I got up on the treadmill and started running.   Kris took some video.  Here's a screen grab of that first run.

screen grab from Runner's Academy Ubersense Video

It doesn't look *that* bad, right?

He gave me some things to work on - specifically high knee drills, really focusing on picking my legs up and upping my cadence.  The goal was to create more of an oval shape with the movement of my legs vs. a tear drop shape and I had to stop over striding.  That was putting more load on my knees than was necessary.  The goal was to have my foot land as close to under my body as possible.

I came prepared for my next appointment.  He immediately had me get up on the treadmill and start running.  This is what I looked like.  Worse than the week before.  Maybe I should have put the Sketchers back on, ha ha.  Kris had me to a bunch of drills involving jumping over hurdles and running with high knees and then he put me back on the treadmill.

screen grab from Runner's Academy Ubersense Video

This is what I looked like after.

screen grab from Runner's Academy Ubersense Video

My foot is landing a bit more under my body, and my leg isn't trailing out the back in the swing phase of my gait.  It's moving in a tighter circle as you can see by the lack of space between my legs.  I'm getting good push off with my leg and my knees are driving forward.   The first few times I started running like this I felt like I was hopping.  It was very bouncy.  But as I've progressed, I feel like there is less bounce and more forward motion.  It still feels a bit odd to me but it's only been a few weeks.  I know I'm definitely using my glutes and hamstrings because they have become perpetually tight.  I can also feel the power I get from them when I'm pushing off.  It feels so much different than the way I used to run. 

You can really see the difference in the videos so I'm going to see if I can get them from Kris.  

My knees no longer hurt when I run so that is a plus.  However, there are all sorts of other small muscles that I guess I wasn't really using before that I certainly feel now.   I usually gauge my effort by heart rate but when you change your gait, especially your cadence, any sort of heart rate based training goes out the window.  You're moving differently than what you're used to, therefore your muscles are using more oxygen, which in turn taxes your aerobic system.  Until your body gets used to these new movement patterns, your heart rate will remain elevated.  I know I'm making progress because with each run my average heart rate seems to be dropping. 

I'm still doing my physio exercises and Kris has given me a few more things to do involving various sized rubber bands.   The big one is used as a resistance band for my high knee drills and my VMO strengthening exercises.  The small one is used to help fire my gluteus medius (also known as your side bum!)



Tomorrow I'm headed back to have my first session with Justin, who is a personal trainer that also works with some of the U of T track team.  He's going to add to my list of things I can do in the gym.  I desperately need some help in this area.   I've been working my upper body and core but neglecting my legs, other than doing the things prescribed by my physio.  So my legs have started to get "soft".  They also feel like they've lost some strength so I'm hoping he can help me get it back.  Stay tuned for an update on that!

I'm looking forward to the day when all of this is history.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that day comes soon.  




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