Friday, November 14, 2008

Changing running gait

Im about half through reading the “Chi Running” book.. Though I don’t think I will ever completely become a ,“Chi” runner, I do think practicing some of the techniques will make me a better runner. I think most of the concepts revolve around sound running techniques, though I sure there are plenty of experienced runners who would disagree. I believe concentrating on better posture and relaxation have made me a better runner.

As someone who has to battle with lower leg pain constantly, I was intrigued by the promise of running injury free. I said what the heck, I will give it a try. So, as I write this, I’m about half finished the book, and have, sorta half hearted, tried to incorporate some of the techniques. Mostly, the ones about posture, and relaxation. As a lifelong hill striker, Im not sure I will ever convert to forefoot running.

One section of the book has really gotten my curiosity up. The book claims that a runner can correct over pronation by making a conscious effort to do so. Can this really be true? I was under the impression that it was something that could be helped by stretching, exercise, and using proper footwear.

Can someone really change the way they run? I thought why not. Most golfers spend there entire life trying to perfect their golf swing. Heck, even Tiger Woods, the most dominate golfer ever, completely changed his golf swing, after having much success on tour. Im sure we are limited somewhat by what we have to work with. But I think some changes are possible and needed.

I began doing some research on the subject, and found some interesting stuff. More than seven out of 10 runners will sustain an injury over the course of a year, many of these injuries preventable without any adverse effects on running distance or performance, according to Dr. Irene Davis, director of the Running Injury Lab at the University of Delaware, and director of Research for Drayer Physical Therapy Institute.

In earlier studies, Dr. Davis identified the specific gait mechanics associated with common injuries. Now, in a study reported at the Experimental Biology meeting in Washington, DC, she explains how she successfully retrained runners to change their faulty gaits in eight half hour sessions, reducing leg shock by 50 percent and completely eliminating pain under the kneecap.

Dr. Davis's earlier gait mechanics research had found that individuals with tibial stress fractures tend to land harder when each foot hits the ground, and in fact about half of the at-risk runners who have completed the study so far already had experienced microfractures. During their retraining sessions, the runners wore a shock measuring device on their lower legs while they ran on a tread mill. A monitor on the front of the treadmill showed the force of each footstrike measured against a line of what a normal, healthy footstrike should look like. The runners' task was to constantly adjust the force with which each of their own feet hit the ground to keep it at or below the line on the screen.

With this feedback, all runners immediately were able to modify the hardness of their footstrike to meet the desired level, but all reported that the softer footstrike level did not "feel normal." By the end of the eighth session, however, even when they were receiving relatively little feedback, all runners had adjusted the force of their footstrike by half. Furthermore, they reported that they found the new gait now felt more normal.

So im gonna give it a try. I will keep you updated on how it works out.

1 comment:

Melanie said...

Thanks for stopping by my site, and I'm glad you did! This was a very interesting post! I was also a pretty bad heel striker, recovered from stress fractures this past summer... and now trying to work on my gait. I'm curious how different the "chi" running is compared to the Pose method, which is what I was recommended. Principles sound similar, but maybe that book is worth a read too! Good luck with your training! :)