Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Running Form

It has been made abundantly clear that I have issues with my form and/or muscle imbalances.  I had issues with my IT bands post-Green Bay marathon, and after the Sioux Falls half last fall.  I had hip issues shortly after Green Bay and during Vegas and Fargo, and I've had random knee issues........ for the last year or so.

Exhibit A-D:  The Heel Strike. Like Whoa.

A couple weeks ago I finally utilized my groupon'd massage certificate.  My first official massage!  I gave the masseuse a brief background to my running and injuries, and she got to work.  When she finally got to my piriformis, I almost started sobbing.  She said she hadn't felt that tight of a piriformis muscle in a long time.  Afterwards she showed me a couple of stretches to help alleviate some of the tightness and I was on my way.

A few months back I actually noticed that I had some tightness and pain in my piriformis muscle (left one) but didn't really give it too much thought because it never bothered me while I was running.  Rolling over at night, leading with that leg, OUCH!  Certain yoga across the body stretches, OUCH!

I did some research on the piriformis and realized that **shocker** when it's tight, it can pull the hip in the wrong direction and can cause knee issues.  Hmmm.... perhaps I should've given it a bit more thought when it hurt while NOT running.  One of the primary causes is over striding.

Next I took to looking at some race pictures.  It's very clear that when I'm tired/hating life while running my form starts to s-u-c-k.  I start to rest on my back side and have my legs do all the work.  The over striding evidence is very clear in most every race finishing picture when I'm tired, but still trying to do some work (see above A-D).

Another interesting factor is that it is almost impossible to not heel strike when you're over striding (hello knee and IT band issues!).  Back in high school when I would've considered myself a "runner," I only raced 13-27 seconds at a time so you don't think about form.  You just ran...hard. 

Since realizing this, I've made a very conscious effort to work on my form, particularly on my easy paced runs, because the form seems to be worse the slower I run.  My knee is almost to the point where I can ditch my knee strap, and I have had zero hip pain and only a little IT band pain.  Turns out the treadmill really brings out the over-striding in me... oops! 
And clearly I wrote this blog post before I ran a 13.1 mile training run and failed to stretch after.  Uh... oops.  I took a rest day on Monday and did some hip opening yoga which got rid of the creakiness.  Phew.  Since the heat index was 112* I wasn't too sad I had to put off my run.  Eew.


kimi said...

I just want to hug you in that last photo. You look so eeyore-sad. Hehe.

Katie said...

Sooooooooo....yeah. I discovered that if I'd fixed my gait 10 years ago, I probably could have avoided 2 surgeries. Both of my IT bands nagged after surgery, but it was tolerable...and now that I've strengthened my glutes and am using them to run, that pain has completely gone away. Sigh. It sounds like you are doing the right things to fix it - also check your cadence. A faster cadence (180spm) helps to keep the over-striding in check.

I also notice that I crunch forward at the hips when I get tired (like your last pic) and thinking about keeping my shoulders back and my posture good helps me to keep my stride falling under my hips instead of in front, which fixes a whole host of problems.

Deadlifts and squats - single and double leg - will also help make it easier for your body to do this right! But get someone to show you good form so you don't do the magical trick collapsing hip like I did the first 2 weeks. :)

Generation X (Slomohusky) said...

Read Chi Running and Born to Run. They have helped me. Yet, no matter how much you know what the right way is - you still have to be consistent at doing it. Too easy to fall back into bad habits. My Achilles is living proof.

Scot said...

I'll second it: Born to Run
Wow, what a difference.

Susan said...

Gah, running form. I'm back and forth on whether you can "fix" your form...or if you even should. You run the way you do for a reason, and fixing your form can lead to injury as well. I do think it's important to wear the proper shoes, but I don't necessarily think that running barefoot (as in Born to Run) will automatically fix everything...but that's just my opinion!

jt00ct said...

Jeri - If you are serious about improvement here is a start.

Good luck!


Kier said...

I am fairly certain I am a heel striker too and I try to focus on correcting this during most of my runs...it is hard to concentrate on form though for long runs, I just want to zone out!

runningonsmores said...

Running form is kind of funny because each of my coaches have told me something different. I guess I just do whatever is comfortable for me. The books are probably a good idea to check out. I've heard Born to Run is chalk full of great info.

p.s. 112 degrees? Holy cow! That is beyond hot..

Nicole @ "Haute Runner" said...

Awesome news!! Those photos sure do reveal a lot about your stride. I am going to have to take a look at some of my race pics to check out my form.

JessA said...

I cried when my sports medicine doc worked his magic on my tight muscles. I hate when I get tired that my running form sucks too!

Page said...

It's so funny that you posted this because I just got a race photo and I was like WTF HEEL STRIKER!!!! I need to work on this too so thanks for the reminder!