Back to the Beginning; Form Change Update

I have had quite a few people ask me about how the changes that the UVA Speed Clinic recommended are going, and I thought it was about time I did make an update, as things are actually starting to move in the right direction!

Firstly, let me just say this has been an incredibly slow process; well, actually thats a  bit of a lie, as it has not even been 6 weeks since I had my full body gait analysis, but it feels like so much longer.

Upon leaving the facility, I dived straight into making the changes, committing myself to the program; doing the exercises almost every day, and thinking about it during my runs. I will show you the changes I have made, and the outcomes I have noticed so far, but first, a comparison of my progress:

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A race in Fall 2012, you can see I am over striding a lot! Notice how far out in front my foot is, and the straight line from my hip to my heel…there is no way my foot is going to make it back under my hips before it hits the ground

 

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This was from the last 800m of the  10 mile tempo I did just before I took my 5 days off. Still out in front a little, but MUCH better, and after 9.5 miles my form was breaking down! My ankle is at least closer to being under my knee

Running Form

Now when I say I was thinking about it during my runs, that was an understatement. Within a few weeks I was doing it the entire run, “squeezing” my glutes for up to two hours at a time, thinking about tucking my hips under me, like a dog with its tail between its legs. By the end of each run, I was exhausted. Absolutely spent. Not in my legs or lungs, just my entire body was just tired.

However, as I became stronger, I started to overdo it, to the point where my hamstring attachment point was starting to get sore again. I realized just a few days ago that I do not need to “squeeze”, but merely think about it.

That is the problem with us as runners, our stubbornness takes over, and we refuse to back down to whatever it is that is making us weak; why you hear of runners who injure another part of their body while cross training.

Strength Coach

I also started working with my new strength coach, Drew Watts, twice a week. Drew is VERY strict with me when it comes to form. It does not matter if I am doing a squat, or even lying on the ground, Drew is making me extremely aware about how the movements I make, in training and just in life, could be affecting my running. In fact, he yelled at me (in a nice way :P) for standing up with my knees pointing towards one another the other day, something I would NEVER have thought about before.

He has truly taken me back to basics, and half the exercises I thought were easy, require total concentration to complete. I was doing them all wrong.

As a perfectionist, that was a tough pill to swallow, it still is. I am so used to taking up something new, and being good at it, or at least able to give it a reasonable attempt on the first few tries, but often now I find myself struggling to complete even a few reps with good form. Just goes to show the importance of quality over quantity.

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Another change that Drew has incorporated is to reduce my reps, and increase the intensity. For the first time in a long time, I am sore after my workouts with him, but most exercises we only do 6-8 reps at a time. Again this was a tough pill to swallow, as I was definitely guilty of being one of those people who thought more reps and lighter weight was better.

However, I can feel myself getting stronger, we are progressing in the right direction, and I know that I will be stronger than I ever have been as I continue to work with Drew. If you are in the Lexington area, make sure you go to Drew for your strength and conditioning!

Orthotics/Shoes

This one was the biggest shocker for me. Max recommended that I come out of my orthotics as quickly as possible (but in a gradual way). I quickly found that running without them was more comfortable than running with them, and they are now gathering dust until I can bring myself to throw them away (they costed $500!).

The other surprising thing was that I was told I could wear any running shoes as I had such good foot control. Thankfully my Saucony rep, Dale, was willing to help out, and sent me a nice little package of shoes to try out.

I had been hearing all about the Saucony Triumph ISO, and how great they are, but I did not even consider them before, as I did not think they would work with my orthotics. Free of the restriction, I gave them a try, and fell in love. They have become my favorite running shoes, and I would recommend them!

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Note: honestly considering removing this photo as my foot is pointed in…..sorry Drew :)

I also started using the Saucony Ride, which I love, and this gives me a nice range of shoes to do my training in. Especially as both the Triumph and Ride are a little more heavy duty than the Kinvara for the pounding on the roads. Now I just have to decide what I will race in; suddenly the Kinvara don’t feel comfortable anymore….

What has changed?

I talked to Max a few days ago, and he was very impressed with how far I have come in just over a month. Here are some of the biggest changes I have noticed:

I can actually squeeze my glutes! Believe it or not, before I could not…..unless I needed to pee, but that is not the right set of muscles you need for running. Now I can squeeze them, AND they are getting stronger each day. Your glutes are incredibly important for running, and I believe this will make a huge difference to my efficiency

My stride length is 20cm shorter than before!! This absolutely blew me away, and although it can be tough to get your head around, it means that I am no longer over striding, and over time, my push off will become more powerful, and I will be able to cover more ground in the air.

Although I felt like I was shuffling a lot for the first….well, until a few days ago actually, now it feels natural, and Drew said I look like I am gliding! Thats always nice to hear 🙂

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My core is stronger, but not in the sense of doing planks for 6 minutes way, but in a using my entire trunk to stabilize way. I honestly think if my body has any chance of ever developing a 6 pack, it will be in these next few months, but I am gonna let things happen; Be Brave! Be Strong, Be YOU right? Maybe I just do not have the genetics for that, we will see 🙂

I have struggled a little with pace, all those changes I made meant that I could not run very fast, as it required so much concentration and energy, but again, the theme here is quality, not quantity. We wanted to make sure I get it right, and then the speed will follow along after.

As some of you saw, I also finished up at Drayer Physical Therapy, they really laid the foundation with my strengthening, so without them, I do not think I would have progressed so far so quickly.

Overall

Now I have had some time to reflect, would I recommend the UVA Speed Clinic? 100% YES! I honestly believe this is going to make a HUGE difference for me. It was the right choice, and I can already see some changes in me that I know will make me a better runner.

I am far from where I want to be, I have a long way to go, but I vow to enjoy the journey, enjoy the little accomplishments along the way, and stand on that start line in London, knowing that I am stronger than I have ever been before.

If you want to learn more about why you should consider a full body gait analysis, listen to my podcast with sports performance coach, Matt Phillips. You will learn a lot, and it will explain why it is so important to do this at any level, its not just for elites. You don’t have to go to a really serious place like I did (although I would definitely recommend), but Matt explains what you do need to look for, and what changes you can make to your form without risking injury.

Oh, and speaking of podcasts, today my podcast went live with Unbroken (and Seabiscuit) author, Laura Hillenbrand, what an honor that was to interview her! You can check it out here 🙂

Okay, this has been a long post, apologies, but I have a feeling those people who are really interested in this will enjoy reading, and want the detail I went into.

Thank you for supporting me on my journey. I will keep you posted 🙂

Have you ever had a sudden change in which shoes you like to run in? Do you lift heavy weights with less reps, or lighter weights with more reps?