Thursday, July 24, 2014

Recruit the Glutes! The Results of my Gait Analysis

Well, the verdict is in.  It's official.  I'm a mess.  This past Monday I had my gait assessment with Babs at Pivot.  Let me tell you, there is nothing quite as uncomfortable (yet oddly fascinating) as watching yourself run.  If you thought race photos were bad, imagine adding motion to it.  Yuck.  But I digress.

Seeing myself in motion confirmed a few things that I already know:    1) My right side is weaker than my left.  2) I hold my arms out just a bit too far from my body.  I didn't realize just how far until I saw the video.  

It also really opened my eyes to just how poor my form is.  Now, that being said, I know I run differently on a treadmill than I do outside.  On a treadmill I am almost always looking down at either the display or my feet because I just don't trust myself enough to run on a conveyor belt and watch TV.  Looking down causes all sorts of unflattering things to happen, such as shoulder roll.  When your shoulders roll, everything else drops with them. You want to talk about unflattering.....

No, I'm not pregnant.  And yes, I know I drink the occasional beer, but I don't have THAT much of a gut.  The whole shirt tucked into the shorts thing doesn't really help either.  Anyway, because my shoulders are rolled forward, the rest of my body is following suit.  My pelvis has tilted back, pushing my abdomen forward.   You can also see that my arms are bent at 66 degrees.  Ideally they should be at 90 degrees.  I know I have a physically strong core but it is functionally weak because apparently I don't engage it when I run.  In order to do this, I need to focus on tucking my pelvis in when I run.   Normally I turn my brain off when I run but now I'm going to have to actually think about doing this until it becomes just what my body does.

I have tight hamstrings and hip flexors (along with other things I'm sure) so my range of motion is reduced.  My left hip also seems to be "locked".  It's very apparent in the video and you can also see it when I walk.  Heck, I can FEEL it when I walk.  I can't seem to fully extend my left leg.  This is going to require diligent stretching on my part.  As well as some quality time on the tennis ball and maybe a few elbows in the glute from my RMT.

You can also see that I am over striding.  Ideally you're landing with your legs not so far out in front of your body.  Essentially I'm slowing myself down by running like that.  Not to mention the jarring impact it has on my legs.  The "ideal" running gait looks something like this.  Notice the placement of the runners feet in relation to their shin.  They are driving forward with their knees, using their foot strike to help propel them forward vs. slow them down.

 Look at them and then look at what I'm doing....

There has been a ton of debate over the last several years about heel striking.  Is it bad, is it good, does it even matter?  After trying to change my foot strike and ending up injured, I've come to the conclusion that my feet are going to do whatever they're going to do.  There are things that I can work on to help my body move more efficiently but changing the way my feet land isn't one of them.

I also pronate.  Not a really bad thing either - it is natural to have some pronation, however, mine is excessive because of the way I toe out.  I do wear orthotics and I am wearing them in these shoes, however, these shoes are a less supportive neutral shoe I use for shorter distance racing.  For longer distance racing I use something that is still neutral but offers more cushioning and a bit more support.  I want the orthotics to do the work, not the shoe.  We did talk about orthotics and I may need a new pair but that wasn't the focus of this assessment.

The most interesting part of the analysis for me was what my hips are doing.  I know that my right side tends to drop or collapse easier than my left side (as evidenced in 99.9% of my race photos).  However BOTH sides are problematic when viewed from the back.  I have something Babs referred to as Trendelenburg gait.  In a nutshell, this means that my hip abductor muscles (gluteus medius and gluteus minimus) are weak.

Yes folks, I have a lazy ass.  Because those muscles are not working properly, I am compensating elsewhere, mainly in my quads as it turns out.  This has led to incredibly tight quad muscles and IT bands, which in turn has led to knee pain.  Everything is so tight, it's putting stress on the joints and the tendons around it and everything becomes inflamed.  At least that's how I understand it.  So, ice and the occasional anti-inflammatory have become my best buds. 

Check out that hip drop! 
There are also some things I need to work on with my upper body.  Apparently I raise my shoulders while I run.  I know I do this on the treadmill for sure and I do it when I start to fatigue.  Babs said that most of that is due to my arm position.  I need to relax my arms a bit more when I run.  When I do this I will relax my shoulders.  My arms should be closer to waist level. I always wondered why my traps were sore after some of my longer runs.  Now I know.   I also have a lot of upper body movement when I run.  My torso twists and my arms cross my chest.  This is also very inefficient.  Take a look at the picture of all the "pros".  Their arms don't cross their chests.  They move back and forth from their shoulders, essentially helping their forward motion.  

You can also see that I have a very narrow base to my gait.  Which means that it doesn't take much for me to cross my foot slightly in front of me when I'm running.  I've even managed to kick my left heel multiple times during a run.  My right side seems to be more of the culprit with this than my left which is not surprising given that it seems to be my weaker side.  Ironic given that I'm right handed.

I know this all sounds horrible but, it is pretty much all fixable with a bit of work.  I have to be diligent about doing my glute strengthening exercises and I have to be doubly diligent about stretching and foam rolling.   I've even started stretching on days that I'm NOT working out.   The glute strengthening exercises are going to have become part of my regular routine.  Period. 

The plan of action right now is to do my exercises and continue my stretching routine for the next 3-4 weeks and then go back to see Babs again for a re-assessment.  If I'm still as sloppy as this, then we'll have to figure out another plan of action.  I'm scheduled to go back on August 25th, which is technically 5 weeks but that's the best I could do with my schedule. 

For anyone interested in getting this done, I highly recommend it.  Babs did an initial assessment of my feet and my ankle position as well as my orthotics.  He also measured my legs to see if there was any leg length discrepancy (there's a small one but nothing I need to be concerned about).  Afterwards, he took me through the video and explained everything that was going on.  He then did some tests with me to confirm that my glutes weren't firing.  My quads are so dominant, I had a hard time shutting them off during the test and when I did, all I could feel was the burning of my incredibly weak gluteus medius trying to work.  So very sad.

Had I thought about it, I would have actually taken notes because there is an additional charge for the video and still images with explanations.  If you're currently working with a physiotherapist or chiropractor then having these things would help immensely in your treatment plan because they'll be able to see what's happening in conjunction with your complaints about what's hurting.   I'm not sure if the initial $125 cost is covered by extended healthcare plans, but I don't think so (I haven't tried submitting my receipt yet, ha ha).  I know that the additional costs won't be.  The additional costs were as follows:

Gait Video only (no descriptions or markings) $35
Still images of gait with descriptions & markings = $55
Gait Video with descriptions & markings = $85

I'm guessing I've been running like this for a while.  Doing as much racing as I did last year, it's no wonder everything started to fall apart the minute I started building up my mileage again this year.  What amazes me is the fact that I was able to run relatively fast running as inefficiently as this.  I can only imagine how much faster I could potentially be if I actually manage to recruit my glutes!

Have you ever had a gait analysis done?  Did it help you improve your running form?


Paul Mora said...

Wow, that's some analysis! I wonder what it would turn up on me? I think I would look like Quasimodo lurching along. Good for you for getting done, and good luck on working on the corrections.

Wendy at Taking the Long Way Home said...

Phaedra! This is awesome. I did this last year with the crossfit coach I'm working with. We didn't do gait analysis, she did some other functional tests. But her analysis revealed that my glutes (my posterior chain) weren't firing either. So we've been working on that for a while. What a difference it has made in my running. I actually feel my glutes and hammies pushing me, especially up hills. It is weird--after 20+ years of running, to feel something new (and good!).

The other thing her analysis revealed was that I am much weaker on the left side, which probably contributed to the development of that big toe issue. So she did a lot of work last summer with me to get that hip stronger. It is still weaker and I should do more clamshells! Overall, I am so pleased with my results that I'm letting her train me for my upcoming marathon.

I don't recommend crossfit per se, but working with a coach who focuses on strength and lifting, as opposed to running drills, has been a game changer for me. Now I need someone to get inside my head and push me to the finish line when my will starts to weaken!

Courtney@The TriGirl Chronicles said...

That is really cool! The assessment of course, I mean. I wanted to get my V02 max and lactic threshold measured and the place that does them by me also offers this kind of stuff. I really want to go get all of it done, but that cost moneymoneymoney.

Good luck getting loose and fixing your gait. You're so fast already, imagine how speedy you'll be with better form!!

Ririnette said...

Pretty sure that's me in a nutshell as well, however I did work on changing my running form 2 years ago and successfully transitioned to a mid-food strike. That doesn't mean it took away all my issues, as the same imbalances and weaknesses remain. I would really like to go there and have an analysis done too. I have one scheduled, but it's with a physio. For sure I won't get all these fancy images and measurements, but I may get the same exercises to do. I am really glad that you shared those with us. Very enlightening.

Phaedra Kennedy said...

Paul - It was a real eye opener for me, that's for sure!
Wendy - that's FANTASTIC. I thought about hiring a trainer to help me with my form in the gym and I may still do that. Another friend of mine who teaches pilates said I should start doing that as it involves a lot of glute work. So that might happen in the off season
Courtney - yes, all of this can add up. It's crazy. I also want to get my V02 max tested. I've had my lactate threshold tested twice - a very worthwhile investment!
Irina - Getting yours done with a physio may actually be more beneficial as they can continue to treat you after. Babs doesn't treat patients, you'd have to go to someone afterwards with all your info and have them treat you. I did it backwards. I was seeing a chiro and then decided to get a gait analysis done. It confirmed what my chiro thought so it was money well spent.