My main reason for going is to see if there was anything I was doing "wrong" in my running that if corrected could help me avoid injuries and/or run faster and stronger. My feeling was that although running is pretty simple - one foot in front of the other - perhaps since I pretty much just laced them up one day and made a commitment to run, that maybe there was room for improvement.
I expected them to find something small - i.e. keep your shoulders back - and send me on my merry way. I almost wish this is how it went down....
I got there early, so the person before me was still on the treadmill with a running coach. I briefly spoke to the running coach that was going to be analyzing me - he took a look at my running history and PRs and said something like "OK, I see you're doing this recreationally and not running all out." I'll give him that since I'm not very fast, however, I still feel that the 25:17 5K that I posted a few months ago was "running all out" and still quite respectable. He saw that I wanted to have my running form checked and improve my running efficiency if possible.
Since I was early, I spent time with the podiatrist and shoe specialist first. I let them know that I had plantar fasciitis about 5-6 years ago. At that time I started to wear insoles and only tie-up shoes which give me more support and I haven't had problems since. They had me take off my shoes and socks and walk away from them and back toward them. The podiatrist then had me lie down and he started stretching my foot, etc. The bottom line - there are no foot issues. I should continue with the Superfeet insoles. I may want to find a neutral shoe that bends a little less in the shank - the shoe specialist recommended the Brooks Dyad. The next time I'm at Fleet Feet, I'll check these out.
Then the fun part came. Running on the treadmill! They asked me for the umpteenth time if I was comfortable running on a treadmill (and I answered yes for the umpteenth time). The running coach told me to run at a comfortable pace. I settled in at an 11:00 mile pace and he started jotting down notes and watching me from the side, behind and in front.
After a few minutes he started giving me his analysis. It ends up that I'm quite an INEFFICIENT runner.
He started by telling me that my feet are traveling in a circular motion - like I'm on a bicycle. They should travel more in an elliptical motion. What this is doing is making me bounce up and down more and my stride is propelling me upwards instead of forward. I should try to work on "pawing back" with my feet to help flatten out my stride.
The next thing he mentioned to me was that my turnover was a bit slow. Ideally, you should have about 180 footstrikes per minute - which if you focus on counting one foot for 15 seconds it should be 22-23 footstrikes. I was in the 20-21 range.
Another thing he said is that I am crossing my right arm across my body. My arms should travel in the direction I'm traveling and my elbow should not cross my rib cage.
He had me stop on the treadmill and went through a few more notes with me. Here's the list of what he wrote down:
- Forward Head (my head is tilting a bit too forward when I run)
- Knees Valgus (inward tilting of the knees)
- Excess Vertical Oscillation (from the circular motion above)
- Right Hand Crosses Front
- Pelvis Unstable
- Foot Turn Out
Basically, I got a lot more than I bargained for. This was no "keep your shoulders back" feedback.
The recommendation of the Running Coach and Physical Therapist was to focus on strengthening my core which would likely help the pelvic instability - which in turn impacts the knees and foot turn out. A little investment - maybe working with a coach a few times for a program I can do 15-20 minutes 3-4 times a week - would equate in significant progress...especially for long term injury prevention. The running coach also wanted me to work on the turnover by shortening my stride for now and trying to get more footstrikes in.
On the way home, I had mixed feelings. I'm glad I went, but it was a lot of information to digest in the 40 minutes I was there. Plus, I felt like I was ambushed a bit. I was expecting my form to be a bit inefficient, but I was quite surprised to see the list of things that this guy found by just watching me run for 10 minutes.
I'll likely look into some core exercises (the running coach recommended "Core Performance For Endurance Athletes by Mark Verstegen) and I'll try to focus on the turnover, however, I think I may just go out and run tomorrow before I do any of these things.