Thursday, October 17, 2013

Three Things Thursday: Doing it all wrong

My calves. Oh my goodness, my calves. They are tight, sore. Maybe even painful. Though I have seen some relief thanks to ProCrompession socks and my Tiger Tail, I'm still walking like I ran a marathon ... except the marathon is 23 days away and my next 20-miler is is tomorrow.

I could be left to scratch my head but there was a change this week, and that change was in the form of a guest physical therapist.

Before releasing me with a big packet of exercises and Indiana Physical Therapy T-shirt, my PT wanted me to meet with the practice's running expert. The PT, who is an accomplished ultra marathoner, would evaluate my gait, form and general running self to see whether those things could have contributed to my original injury.

And though that's not the way he put it, not exactly, I am doing some things wrong.

Problem No. 1: Overstriding. If running properly, a person's foot lands underneath her hip. My leg, on the other hand, extends far in front of my body before coming back in and landing in front of the hip. With each stride, I'm basically wasting energy to extend my leg and then braking momentarily as the foot lands to get better alignment. It causes undue stress on the hip extenders (hamstrings and glutes) rather than using the quadriceps.

Solution No. 1: Bounding. This exercise/drill is tough, and I felt like a complete tool trying to nail it in the clinic as others rehabbed shoulders and hips post-replacement surgery. The goal is to reteach the brain form by exaggerating the knee drive and accentuating proper foot placement.

Problem No. 2: Hip stability. As you run, your hips should stay stable and even. In my case, my right hip drops as I land on the right foot, indicating a weakness in the gluteus medius to keep it stable. The weakness on the right side affects the left and boom! Left hip problems.

Solution No. 2: Hip drops and other things. I have been working to improve the strength and connections of neuromuscular pathways of my glutes. My exercises have included clam shells, monster walks and pistol squats but some more specific exercises have been added - hip drops on a step, squat jumps, one-leg squat jumps and one-leg lateral squat jumps. The plyometric exercises will not only strengthen those muscles but help improve the power in my stride.

I was lucky enough to get to do all of these under his supervision and let's just say when he corrected my form, I felt the need to apologize for the state of my T-shirt.

Problem No. 3: Torso rotation. We all know core strength is important to running but do we know why? For me, a stronger core will help stabilize the torso and prevent undo rotation as I run. I exhibit the rotation clearly, even to the untrained eye, in my arm swing. I bring the arms in front of the torso using a slight internal rotation of the shoulder rather than keeping the arms by my side and using them to drive the body forward.

Solution No. 3: Focus. This problem is the only one the PT said I could actively work to fix mid-run without making things worse. He advised bringing the arms out to the side and using them to move like the wheels of a train.

Because I am a train. Obviously.

Note: These exercises were prescribed for me by a licensed physical therapist, and I am sharing them for informational purposes only. 


  1. Very cool. I remember in middle school cross country our coach told us that our hands should skim the pockets of our shorts - basically a way to keep our arms relaxed and down and keep them from crossing the front of our body. I remember that sometimes when I am getting tired and can feel my arms creeping up and over. Just a thought!

    1. Oh, good tip! I'll have to think about that rather than Thomas and Percy.

  2. Awesome feedback. I suspect we have similar gaits because we're doing some of the same PT exercises. I'd be cautious about trying to change too much right before your race though. Maybe pick one small thing to work on.

    1. Unite! I am definitely being cautious about how much I do and try to fix ahead of the marathon. I'm going to work on the arms and do exercises now but wait to focus on form until the off season. I have plans for then anyway, so it should fit in nicely!

  3. Okay, this is worrisome. If a freaking BODYPUMP INSTRUCTOR doesn't have sufficiently strong glute medius muscles, then who the heck does?!

    You know, Steve in a Speedo made an interesting comment when talking about his running injury recently: his chiropractor told him, "EVERY physical therapist will say you're weak somewhere.... And EVERY Chiropractor will say you need to be re-adjusted somewhere." (

    So, I know this is a totally stupid question (and you certainly know way more about the topic than I do), but... do you think this is a legit criticism of your form? Because it seems like the massive amount of Bodypump you do should be taking care of your posterior chain strength, doesn't it?

    1. Valid, valid points. I had read Steve's post the other day/week, and it really hit home.

      I definitely think there is some truth in what the PT's say. I saw on the video that I overstride and my hip drops. I am not sure the issue is with strength, specifically, as they but more the neuromuscular pathways and how things fire. At least that's what the one PT said.

      I do think I've been guilty, too, of overloading the bar and allowing the hamstrings to overcompensate rather than using the glutes. The only other way it could contribute is that I don't move laterally in BP to work the abductors but I do that in Piloxing.

      The one thing I forgot to ask is how much being on a treadmill v. outside affects form. I was trying to notice (without correcting) how my feet landed, and I think I take smaller steps and am more stable outside. It's like the treadmill makes me claustrophobic and I overcompensate.

  4. And one more question, while I'm feeling overcaffeinated and cranky :-)

    Are you going to try to change your running form now (23 days from M-Day and counting), or make it a project for the winter, after the marathon's done?

    1. You are the best. Definitely not doing crap before the marathon except, maybe, work on the arms. I'm getting it done the way my body knows how. Over the winter, if I can mentally accept it, try to run three days a week so I can take swim lessons and ride my bike on the trainer. If I can do that, I might do more specific form work.

  5. Love that bounding drill- it's a good reminder! I like to think of myself as a monorail when I'm trying to focus on form- helps me at least feel like I"m moving smoothly!

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