Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Mechanics

First let me say thank you. My 2015 year in review post got so many encouraging comments. You guys obviously recognized that I've been a bit blue this year, and your kind words really helped. I've been in a downward spiral for a while, and whenever this work thing settles down it will start to stabilize.

The consistent beer intake doesn't help depression. I'm not out getting hammered, just one or two beers when something else gets annoying. But then Kelley pointed out that it's happening about 6 days a week. And then I'm over 190 lbs for the first time in 5 years. And I'm feeling all of that weight (and age) when I'm running, and I'm running a lot more than ever before to get ready for the Umstead 100. So my hips, and knees, and feet are all feeling the effects of all of that; it's not pleasant at all.

On a trail run last weekend, the car said 48* but I did 17 miles comfortably in shorts and no sleeves because I do what I want. It was a fantastic time in Umstead.

Last week I had a unique opportunity. A local physical therapist was giving a clinic on running mechanics and case studies of his 3D gait analysis system. This guy is a runner and helps runners in addition to kids and others recovering from surgery. He can watch you on a treadmill (2D analysis) and make the pains go away. The service is not as pricey as I was expecting, so I may bite down and get a session.

Of course Jim knew all of the medical terminology for the bones, muscles, and movements involved in running. The presentation was very smooth and informative. He talked a lot about what we, as runners, can look for in other runners to spot imbalances and sometimes provided advice to correct them. It really made me think about my own running form and how I keep getting these same problems (left hip flexor, right knee, both feet/ankles) every year.

I came to the following conclusions after the discussion:
  • My right hip must be dropping
  • My right shoe scrapes my left calf during the recovery portion of the motion, indicating that my left hip is having a problem stabilizing during that part of the movement
  • Heel/toe/midfoot strike is not as important as the angle of the shinbone to the knee at ground impact
  • Keep the cadence at 180 for short strides. Efficiency is what's going to make me last 100 miles, not speed
  • Stand tall - my forward lean might actually be hurting my hip stabilizers
 This clinic was last wednesday night. Thursday I had to go to the gym to hit the treadmill for 10 miles to see if I could make some corrections. I ended up actually having a very surreal experience. The headphones stayed home (by accident) so all I had was the ambient noise around the gym. My mind actually went into a very calm, zen-like state after a few minutes and I was able to be completely still on the inside, even though my body was in constant motion.

When I tried to "run taller" I could actually feel my hips staying balanced more. No more scraping my left calf. I checked my cadence often and at different speeds, and every time it came in right at 180.

To calculate my cadence, I wait for the treadmill timer to hit an even number. Then I count my right (or left) footfalls until I get to 30. The timer should have advanced by exactly 20 seconds. 30 right steps in 20 seconds, multiplied by 3 means 90 right footsteps in a minute. Hopefully, my left foot also got in 90 steps in the same minute, thus giving me exactly a 180 cadence. If my 30 right footfalls took 22 seconds, then my cadence is a bit slow and I need to try and shorten my stride. I've never seen my cadence go over 180, so I don't know how to deal with that. But 180 is a widely used standard for men and women runners, so feel free to use my method the next time you're out and want to check yourself.

Overstriding is when your knee is extended too far before footstrike. Typically this generates a heel strike, but you can still hit toes first. Not letting your shins go past vertical is only a mental adjustment. Think of your knees like a loose hinge so your shins can hang freely like windchimes. This is how you want to land. I don't think I was overstriding too badly, but once I got the cadence in line, and ran taller, I knew my shins were at the proper angle as well.

Really the whole thing came together. I ran 10 miles at a 9 minute pace or faster. I wasn't bored, fatigued, or aerobically challenged. Heart rate never got above 142. The whole thing was just amazing. I really needed that.

1 comment:

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Wow, that is awesome that you were able to make those corrections after going to that clinic. and the fact that your heart rate stayed so low during that run just goes to show that you really are in great shape, even though you aren't feeling your best right now.

Maybe try doing a month where you don't have any alcohol to reset that habit? I find that removing something tends to help me reset my cravings/habits. But I am an abstainer, not a moderator (I do better when I say no completely to something versus trying to cut back).