Thursday, April 23, 2009

Running Mechanics

Running is a fairly popular form of exercise. However, most people don't know how to run properly, are very inefficient, and/or ending up injuring themselves. I have worked with many clients who have come to me complaining of a variety of aches and pains due to running. The problem is that running is viewed as solely a 'cardiovascular' exercise or a good Calorie-burning exercise. Overlooked is the muscular-skeletal/technique aspect of running. With poor technique, ground-reaction forces (those forces experienced by the foot, ankle, knee, hip and spine every time the foot strikes the ground) can be upwards to three times your body weight- Ouch! You can see how easy it is to hurt yourself.

Movement Continuum Theory can and should be applied to running to enhance performance and decrease risk of injury. As you can see, endurance should be pursued only after technique and efficiency are optimized. Basically, learn how to run properly and work on your deficiencies (i.e. joint mobility, strength, etc.) before you go out for that three-mile run.

Recently, I worked with my client, Janet, on her running technique. She has good hip, knee, and ankle mobility, and has enhanced her strength (especially hip extensor strength) over the last six months. In the first video, below, she runs with her usual technique (at 7.0 mph). In it, she strikes the ground with her heel (which results in high forces in the joints), fails to get full hip extension on her stance leg, and slightly collapses (rotates inward) her thigh when she lands.

The second video was taken after I worked with her for about ten minutes on her technique. In it, notice how the toes strike the ground first and she has more hip extension (how far her leg goes back after she pushes off). Immediately, her technique is more efficient and she experiences less strain on her joints. Now, she will need to practice this for some time to develop the motor coordination and for it will feel more natural.

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