I don’t even know where to begin with this experience. I feel like I write this a lot with my blog posts, but this time…..I just….my mind is just all over the place, shooting in many directions as I try to absorb as much of it as I can.
As I sit writing this in the back of the car on our 6 hour drive back to Lexington (we won’t make it home till midnight), most would reflect on an experience like this, thinking “was it worth it”?
That is one thing I don’t need to think about. I don’t need to hesitate. There is not a doubt in my mind that this was the right thing to do.
What we needed to do.
This experience unlocked so many doors, answered so many questions that I had almost given up hope looking for, and gave me an excitement about my future, my long-term future, that I hadn’t had in a while.
London Marathon proved that the changes we made to my form were worth it. We knew that, but I knew going back to the Speed Clinic would likely criticize my form further, and I would be brought back to earth. I was prepared to be torn down, weaknesses exposed, and left feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable again.
But that was not what happened.
Of course we did find issues. Of course we did leave with A LOT to work on, but we also saw the differences so clear that even a non-runner would notice, and it was amazing hearing Max say “WOW! So much better!” to a lot of things.
Today though was an extra special day at the UVA speed clinic. Not only did we have Max and Biomechanical Analyst Leigh, but my strength coach Drew also came along, and Max also invited along a friend who was a chiropractor, Dr Todd Nieder. I wasn’t really sure what to expect of Todd, but I know how much help Dr Mike has been to my training, so I was excited to hear what he had to say, especially as if Max thought he would be a great addition to the team, then he must really know his stuff.
We spent 3.5 hours in the clinic, and we were not even close to finished. We only really spent about 10 minutes looking at the 3D images, and we didnt get a chance to go over a lot of things that we initially intended, but I could tell Max was very aware that we had a 6 hour drive ahead of us, and it was already 5pm.
I am not sure how to go about this post, so I think I will just break it into two posts to make it more manageable, as I have so much to say. This post is as much about me reflecting, documenting on my experience as it is for you to take a peak into what its like. I want to share my journey with you, but at the same time, I want to have this moment written down to look back on.
Starting from the beginning, we met Max, who I gave a big hug to…..not sure he was expecting that, but I felt inclined to after all he has done for me over the last 6 months. We walked back down to the lab, and talked about what we were going to do today.
Once we got acquainted, and everyone met one another, it was time for the analysis to begin. First, Max and his assistant Leigh turned me back into a Christmas Tree, sticking the little reflectors and sensors all over my body, and covering up anything that could be reflective; sorry Saucony :p
I did an initial running analysis, which involved about 5 minutes of running, followed by a 2 minute measurement time, where they filmed and created a 3D analysis of my running form.
This part is surprisingly difficult, especially for me going back; it was like the moment of truth. Part of me wanted to think about it hard, carefully (well, as carefully as you can) plan out my movements to show the best form, show how far I have come, and prove that I have been doing what they recommended. You know what movements you should be doing, and so that part wanted me to showcase my “new form”.
However, what use is displaying what you “should be doing” if that is not what you do for the other thousands of miles you run? Its like when your dentist asks you if you have been flossing. You know it is good for you. You know that is what they want to hear, but if you tell them yes when you really mean no, they are not really getting the full picture.
I knew I had to run how I would usually run to get a true assessment, but I wanted to paint the best picture of myself, especially when I had five sets of eyes on me.
We then filled out some paperwork on my (updated) background, and started doing some tests.
Max was impressed with some of the advances I have made with these tests. Dr. Todd and Max did some other tests, explaining to Drew and Steve about what they could “see”. One of the most indicative tests was watching me hop on one foot. On one side I was able to hop how I should, and my foot moved the way it is supposed to, but on my left side, my heel was very rigid, and all the movement was coming from the toe end of my foot, which would explain why my left calf and peroneals have been so tight recently.
It was a really weird situation to be in; having 5 pairs of eyes all on you, watching your every move, looking for your weaknesses.
However, I knew that everyone in this room knew their stuff, and working together along with a few others; Dr Mike, Karen, and Jeremy Stoker(who has been amazing helping me from Utah over the last few months!) could really make the difference in my running life.
One other interesting thing we discovered is that I CANNOT move my left big toe on its own. At all. Try it. See if you can, but I can’t. I can move my right big toe on its own, and lift the toes on their own, but absolutely not my left toe, no matter how hard I tried. That is something we need to work on!
Now it was time for Dr. Todd to work his magic…
I had pretty high expectations of what he would bring to our team (officially named Team Ice Cream by the way :P), but he exceeded my expectations in every way. He practiced Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization, something I had never heard of, I still don’t really even understand what he did, but it was so unique, so advanced, and honestly, just fascinating.
Dr Todd put me in all kinds of strange positions, and made me breathe into muscles I didn’t know I had, tiring out other muscles that I have never used before. It required all my concentration, and I was pretty tired after each one, which is hard to believe as most of them were such little movements.
I could not believe how much concentration it required to hold these positions. I had to really focus to hold it, and I still needed Dr. Todd to keep coming back to fix it as my form faltered. One recurring theme we found was that my neck tended to strain forward. Drew is constantly reminding me about this during my weightlifting sessions, and I know I do this while racing. Something I definitely need to work on.
They were actually filming me in these exercises, and I had been forewarned that they were going to try some things out on me, to use for future reference. Kinda cool huh?
As much as I would love to go on (and I actually have), I am going to cut this post off here, and finish off the rest of my story on Friday!
Hopefully you enjoyed part one. If you have any questions, let me know, I will try to answer them in Part two 🙂
What would you like to know? 🙂 Do you ever have to fight the urge to show your “best self” when you know you should be honest?
This is all so fascinating! I can’t wait to hear more about what you learned. Very interesting about your big toe…did they catch that last time?
So very cool and so happy you have made advances where you should! You sacrifice so much for your racing, it’s good to see you get some return on that investment 🙂 Looking forward to part 2!
This is so interesting and thank you for sharing your experience. It’s funny how big something so small (IE: your toe can male). I’m glad you found it all worth it as well.
YAS someone else who has the weird inability to not move their toe! It is something that I’ve worked on at PT before, and omg it was absolutely impossible for me to do that after being in the boot this spring. Let me know how you go about working on that! And Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization–would love to hear more! Which muscles were they working on? Core activation?
hey, you need those 5 sets of eyes to really get the breakdown and structure to perform well, right? I think this is going to be a HUGE benefit for you. Love that you got to go!
Totally fascinated with all of this. So great that you have this incredible team working with you on this. And moving your big toe! Yes! It’s hard, right?
This is so so amazing. I’m uber jealous! It sounds like such an interesting process.
It does make me wonder though if you can over-analyse things too much. For example, Paula Radcliffe had a nodding head when she ran…should she have tried to change that despite being so fast? It’s difficult to know when something is an issue or something is just a quirk of how your body is designed…is that something these guys can discover?
So cool!!!! You have made so much progress! It is so interesting and exciting to go behind the scenes for these things 🙂 And yes, I always feel like I should try to “excel” at doctor tests 🙂
wow really interesting! I just tried the toe thing and yes I can do it! Doesn’t seem to help me run any better though. Do you think we all have imbalances and strengths on one side of our bodies? Looking forward to the next post and glad that you got so much out of it.
I have that same issue with my big toe on my *right* foot, so let me know how you fix it… It’s just so crazy bc I can move my left all over but not my right toe. It’s neat to think about all our bodies and their idiosyncrasies, the differences between 2 different people but sometimes 2 different sides of the body. I love that the form changes have helped you run faster and also stay injury-free, and that the chiro and form coaches film it and can help other runners too.
SO COOL. I do know that I run really weird. My top half is so incredibly rotational, almost as if I’m about to spin around and just take off into the sky like a helicopter. But it feels like the more I try to correct it, the more awkward I feel and more potential for injury. I know I need the pros, but so far it’s worked for me so I’ll just ride it out. I’m glad you’re getting all this help, and it’s so great that you’ve made so much progress!
This is so cool! I am now trying out my big toes- and I can move them, but I am sure I would have so many more issues if I were there!!
Loving this post! It is very educational and I love the analysis of it all. I look foward to Friday for more.
And yes, I prefer to put the best foot forward even if it is not completely the truth. And thats always a hinderance. I made a running schedule but I have big goals and dreams of more. I need to stick to it but I find myself wanting to push it, more miles or faster. And I need to trust and master what I can manage little by little rather than burn out or injure. Overall, that will always improve progress down the road.
i find this all so fascinating! I’m excited to read more about your experience, especially Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization. I also just tried moving my toes and can surprisingly do it – but goodness knows my form is far from ideal.
Awesome post! It is so cool to see you go through this journey and you are going to reap huge benefits from all of this!! Can’t wait for part 2…
ahh I know I always say this but being the FURTHEST THING from an elite athlete I really find your musings on this process so riveting. You work so flipping hard—youre so relentless—it pays off.
I agree with Lisa. This is all so fascinating. A side of running most of us wouldn’t get to see if you didn’t share.
This is very cool. I would love to do something like this although I know my form is probably terrible as evidenced by all of my left sided issues. Having babies has totally killed my core and I can’t seem to get it back. So great that you have made some improvements! can’t wait to hear about the rest!