Running problems may be a result of running gait symmetry according to Runners World Magazine

Running problems may be a result of running gait symmetry according to Runners World Magazine

If you are an avid runner, you have probably wondered about your running form and if you are competitive, you have also wondered how you can run faster with fewer problems. Often, running gait symmetry is part of the problem.

Training harder often will lead to incremental improvements in your running times but it often leads to injuries as well.   The reason training harder does not always result in a faster you may have to do with symmetry.

Poor form or body mechanics can cause years of injuries and make it difficult to run at the pace they want to. Many runners are self aware when they hurt, but when they do not, they may not realize that their asymmetrical running form may be the cause of their injuries, while only mild to moderate improvements in your running pace may have occurred. Reaching the next level of speed and endurance often has a symmetry component.

An asymmetrical gait, like the one Usain Bolt is famous for can load the body differently on either side, causing problems with impact.  In the case of Bolt, since he is a sprinter, his race is full on power for a short period of time. He had an injury to his hamstring during the summer of 2016 and again in 2017  which resulted in his retirement from the sport. He has had back problems that were treated for years by his teams chiropractor who he believes helped him throughout his career. Chiropractic treatment will improve movement patterns by restoring joint and myofascial flexibility which is important in the development of power in an athlete.

Running gait symmetry problems are often developmental and involve running style, adaptations to our unique body mechanics, tightness of the myofascial system and even the way our brain has memorized movement patterns through neuroplasticity.   Correcting running gait symmetry is often not as easy as seeing the chiropractor, or doing some exercises, but may require months of poor habit retraining while seeing a healthcare provider who is working on the body, the myofascia and the joints,  helping the runner improve their running mechanics by improving the ability to move. An integrative approach is often the best way to work on symmetry issues.

Does it take a village, or perhaps are we better with just one or two skilled professionals who can help us?   The team approach also known as care by committee  can be ineffective, expensive and inefficient, since it is like having several people make soup; it probably will not taste too good.  One the other hand, one chef or practitioner who perhaps works on the motion and mobility of the body and another who is perhaps a running coach is a better approach to running symmetry problems. While many practitioners have opinions, body mechanics and visual observations on a treadmill can help the right practitioner solve your problem in a more simple and straightforward manner.

Often, the right orthotics in your shoes can help mechanical body style asymmetries you were born with from the ground up, and many runners find they are helpful.  Again, the right practitioner can help you find the right insert and use a holistic or whole body approach to your running problems which may be resulting in impact injuries.  By treating the cause which is form and motion related, future injuries are often avoided and your risk of future injuries can be reduced markedly.

As a healthcare provider who has helped many runners avoid injuries, it is my opinion that it is much easier to diagnose and injury and tell someone not to run or to do a number of weeks of rehab to an area.  This standard approach may make sense however, the likelihood of future injuries is high, since the problem with form was not addressed.   Evaluating gait on a treadmill can be far more helpful and treating the body as a contiguous structure can reduce future injuries by correcting the cause which is far more important to a runner who may desire better running times and wants to a void further down time.

Check out the article in Runners World below

How Symmetry Can Make You a Better Runner
Learn why it matters, then how to find and fix your trouble spots.

By Ashley Mateo WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2017, 1:49 PM

You’ve heard about symmetry before: It’s a mathematical principle that denotes exact equality on two sides. A butterfly’s wings. A snowflake. Your face. Some elementary school teacher probably taught you about all of this years ago, and you likely haven’t thought about symmetry since. But you should, and especially when it comes to running, because an asymmetrical body could be the culprit behind a nagging injury, or what’s keeping you from finally nailing a new PR.

“Evaluating and working on symmetry is one of the top tips I would give new and veteran runners alike,” says Michael Johnson, four-time Olympic gold medal winner and founder of the Michael Johnson Performance training programs. “It can lead to efficiency, which is very important for both sprinters and distance runners. The more efficiently you run, the faster you can cover distance, and the less fatigued you will be because you’ve eliminated or minimized wasted motion.”

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