Friday, October 21, 2011

Running Form: A Work in Progress

A couple of years ago I purchased a copy of Danny Dreyer's book, Chi Running, and that was the first time I really began thinking more about the mind-body connection of running as well as proper alignment of your body when running. I began implementing many of the key components of Chi Running in my own running and found them to be very helpful.

Over the years, my copy of Chi Running has become a bit tattered. I've referred to it often and even more so now that I'm training/coaching runners. I even traveled to Asheville, NC to interview Danny for the Blog.

Recently, Danny informed me of a study being done at UNC-Chapel Hill by MAJ Don Goss on the biomechanics of running particularly Chi running. So I eagerly contacted Don and set up an appointment. So glad I did, because it was quite the adventure and the result was quite the eye opener. My running stride has gone from that of a heel striker to more of a mid-foot (flat foot) strike, which Chi Running advocates as a more biomechanically efficient from of running. I've also worked hard on pulling in my stride and shooting for more of a foot landing under the center of my body. This enables you to work with the oncoming pavement rather than against it. It allows for more of a push than a push-then-pull that heel striking promotes. It also requires less muscle activation, so it should take you longer to fatigue.

So, how did I do? Well, the test was on a rather odd treadmill. It has two for each foot. It was rather awkward to run on. At first I ran with my feet on separate belts and then at one point both feet on the left and then both feet on the right belt. It's a rather narrow belt and was hard to keep my balance. Okay, sounds like I'm making excuses, but it was rather "unnatural" to run on. On top of that I' was wrapped in ace bandages at the waist, thighs, and calves. Probes were attached to the bandages as well as my feet. Don explained that these were sensors that the computer would read and then be able to analyze my stride and foot strike.

The outcome of the test was that I'm not exactly the poster child for Chi Running when I run at a faster pace. I tend to revert back somewhat to being a heel striker. Not as severe as I once was, but the videos below do reveal that I tend to land more on the back of my foot (particularly the right foot) than landing midfoot as I do when I'm running at a more moderate pace. I would like to have some one video tape me running outside to compare, because of the odd belt set up of the treadmill and the balance issues I felt, I really never felt able to get much of lean going during the test. So, like I said earlier, not making excuses just now curious what I look like running faster on the open road. The video shows what it shows, and that's good. Just means I have more work to do. While my test may not be able to be included as an authentic Chi Runner, I learned a lot and now know what I need to focus on.

Below you can see me running with all the probes in place. I'm running on just on of the belts in the video (the left-side belt).

The video below is the computer's interpretation of my running form. I kind of felt like I was in a Disney Pixar production. LOL!


Lady Southpaw said...

What a cool opportunity! It's been about 2 years since I purchased my copy of ChiRunning too and I feel like I've gone through a similar journey. I was a big over strider and I'm sure overall my gait has changed a lot, but every once in awhile I catch a glimpse in a window or I count my steps per min and I realize how easy it can be to fall back into old habits. I find the whole mind body element of running to be so fascinating.

RunnerDude said...

Hi Lady S.! Cool to know you had a similar experience. The quest for improvement it part of the fun.

Anonymous said...

Very cool vid. I've always known I was sort of a heel-striker, and this summer after a stretch of really heavy running I ended up with tendinitis (right knee). Did some sports therapy and had a video done at the local running store - surprising how much of a heel-striker I am.

Got some ortho inserts from the running store and I'm trying to be conscious of mid-strike, but it's hard to break three decades of habits. And I guess I need to read ChiRunning.

Kenley said...

For me, the faster I run, the more forefoot striking that I do. The opposite hold true the slower that I go. Thanks for sharing your experience.