How to run more efficiently while minimizing injuries and pain.

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Why do some of us have more difficulty with running than others?  Are we attempting to run too many miles too fast?  Is it our shoe?  Is it bad running habits? If you read many of the articles in Runners World and many other magazines, there are always going to be articles about speed work, plantar fasciitis, IT band issues, and even back pain. These articles are designed to get you to read the magazine but their one-size-fits-all suggestions often fail to help most of us figure out why we are having problems. I was the medical director for USA Track and Field in NJ for 26 years and learned about helping runners as their difficulties had me problem-solving why they were injured or in pain.   In many cases, I was able to help them overcome their problem before their big event, but there were also a few who had chronic problems that would not allow them to compete due to pain or injury. Most will run through pain believing that this is part of the ritual of running.   Actually, the pain was a warning that there were problems however, over time, many ignored the discomfort as their problems worsened over time and mileage.   Much of this could be avoided if we only understood our own reason for pain in the knee, back, hip, or foot. Running problems are unique to each of us, as we are all different.  One size fits all may help the few but not the many. We all adapt.  The problem is, did we adapt well as we went from crawling to walking to running? Pain is one of the warnings that something has gone wrong however, when training for a race or a marathon, it is common to experience tightness, soreness, and pain.  Since why we hurt is unique to us, it is important to find out what is getting in our way.

Where do you start?

The feet and posture are a good place to begin.  Short, tall, and thin are all things that can affect us.   Bowlegged or knock-kneed body styles can also affect us as these folks will bear weight on the outside of the legs.   Flat feet if they are symmetrical are less of an issue than having asymmetry which affects how we move.   Some of us are built for speed and others, not so much. Are your hips level?  Do your shoulders roll in?   Chiropractors are always looking at these postural deviations as they are important compensations to how we are built. If you are a child beginning track and field when you are 6 or 7, you are adapting while you are growing.  If you are in your teens, you are still adapting and as an adult, if you begin running, you are adapting too. Asymmetry due to foot overpronation will affect how you move, and how your shoulders move.  The most common compensation is over and understanding.  This increases sheer on the body, resulting in braking while you are accelerating.    This is the most common compensation I see.   If your gait is asymmetrical and you run too fast, centrifugal force will affect your balance when you run and you naturally pull back with your arms.   This will cause an under stride in your lower body and the upper body will under stride with the shoulders. How can you visualize this?   Treadmill evaluation is the easiest way as you can take a 30-second video with your running in place which will help you see this for yourself. Our office performs these and then does a second video with instructions on how to overcome these adaptations to restore symmetry to your gait and unlearn bad running habits. Today phones such as the iPhone are ideal for this type of analysis as you can slow the video down frame by frame to see what is happening. Video is your pathway to understanding many of the injuries that are avoidable.

How to do your own gait evaluation video and evaluate your performance.

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  • Have a friend stand on the side of the treadmill so your entire body is in the frame.
  • start the treadmill at your comfortable running or walking pace without elevation.  If you are running at 9.5 min miles, set it for 6.3 for example.  Casual walkers should be able to walk at a pace of 2.6-3.0 comfortably.   If you need to hold on, start slower as you have some significant gait and balance issues.
  • Perform a 30-second video.   You can do videos at different paces to see what happens at different speeds but this is usually not helpful.
  • Study the video and what do you notice?

Running concerns to look for

  • One side heel lands shorter than the other (under striding)
  • Holding the shoulders back.
  • Arms coming across the chest with each stride.
  • upper and lower body appearing out of sync with one another.
  • Audible pounding onto the treadmill surface while running or walking.
  • Limping
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