Jo Spencer Running assessment

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Welcome to your running technique analysis from The Running Education Centre. The advice and recommendations provided are considered to be inline with current opinion across the running community. Should you have any concerns or further questions please contact us by hitting the button below (button not currently active).

Hip, Knee & Ankle Stability

The stability of these joints play a primary role in running efficiency and injury prevention. Any weakness and/or tightness around these joints can result in rotational and lateral forces as you strike the ground. Untreated this can open you up to a whole array of soft tissue and joint related injuries.

The good news is that with some specific movement and strength training you can undo any imbalances around your joints; significantly reducing your injury risk and improving your running efficiency.

Have a look at the two videos below which show you running both towards and away from the camera. I have added some mark-ups and paused the videos at certain key points which I will explain in more detail below.

Observations and recommendations:

Front perspective: Having looked this clip over I can see a slight amount of over pronation in your right foot and some slight rotation in your left knee. I have marked the frames in the video where this is most apparent.

Rear perspective: There is clear evidence that your left ankle is also collapsing inwards as you strike the ground which would explain the knee rotation I can see on the front perspective. I have paused this video briefly on the key frames where this occurs. Below are two blown-up images taken from the same video at the point where your foot strikes the ground and where the ankle is most collapsed.

so what does this all mean?

Over pronation is common amongst runners and can be caused by many factors such as muscle weakness, mobility restrictions, running technique and the shoes we wear. The button below will take you to a favorite site of mine with an article on over pronation and what to do about it. I would certainly recommend trying the squat test to see if your ankle range of motion is a contributory factor. Foot strike can also be a factor in over pronation and we are going to look at this next.

Foot Strike

The position and location that your foot strikes the ground is another key factor in your running efficiency and injury risk.

Foot strike is a topic heavily debated and there have been countless studies and articles written on the pros and cons of different types of foot strike. Having read many of these studies and experimenting on myself I have formed my own opinion on this subject and the advice I give is based on this. I would encourage you to look into this yourself before making any major changes, the button below will take you to a good article that explores different points of view on this subject.

Ideally the foot should make contact with the ground below a bent knee and close to your centre of gravity (under or just ahead of your hips). An impact location ahead of your knee creates a horizontal breaking force which slows you down and subjects your joints to shear forces which increase your injury risk.

The foot should make contact on either the mid or forefoot allowing the impact forces to be absorbed and transferred from the arch of your foot through the muscles around your joints. Landing on the heel ahead of a locked-out knee focuses the majority of the impact forces directly through the joints of your ankles, knees and hips further increasing your injury risk.

The video below shows you running across the camera, I have paused the video briefly as your foot strikes the ground and marked it up to highlight your impact location.

Observations and recommendations:

Your impact location is good and as you can see you are landing below a bent knee. You are striking the ground on your heal which could be contributing to your over pronation and does expose you to an increased risk of injury.

so how do we address this?

The way we run is very instinctive especially for people who have been running for a reasonable amount of time and to suddenly change something will take time. I could simply tell you to start running on the front of your foot for a few minutes during you next run and build up from there but that won’t be addressing the root cause.

In my opinion the reasons some people run this way include the type of shoes, over striding and weakness/tightness in the hips. I’ll put the type of shoes to one side as I believe if you address the over striding and hip mobility issues then the type of shoes doesn’t really influence things too much.

Next time you are ready to head out for a run I want you to march on the spot for me and then progress into a high-knee exercise, take a look at the video below.

Not only is this a good warm-up but what do you notice about your foot strike? Hopefully you will notice you are landing on the front of your foot below your hips.

so what has changed?

Well you are driving you knees higher and planting your foot below your hips. Now all you need to do is apply this when you run, sounds easy doesn’t it? Have a look at your video below.

I have paused the video at the point where your rear foot leaves the ground and marked up the video with two straight lines between your knees and ankles. An indicator of sufficient knee drive is when the two lines are parallel to each other. As you can see these lines are nearly parallel. Take a look at the image below where I am at the same phase of the running cycle, as well as the orientation of the lines have a look at the at the difference in angles of the hip and knee.

By driving your knees higher and being conscious of planting your feet beneath you it will be almost impossible to heal strike and will feel more natural.

so what shall I do then?

Your body is very efficient and will adapt to the movements patterns you repeat regularly to become more efficient when you move the same way again. When you make a change it has to be very forced at first and you will probably tire quicker because you are not yet efficient at carrying out these new movements…..but you will be.

Incorporate high knees into a warm-up routine for a few minutes before you head out for your run. Whilst on your run stick to the way you are comfortable with for most of it but begin to introduce the adjustments for a few minutes at a time and build this up gradually.

You may find you begin to tire quicker but this will pass as your body adjusts. Your muscles will also ache more post run especially the calf muscles so really focus on stretching these; I would also recommend using a roller work out those tight spots.

The Pull

This term comes from the running technique approach known as the ‘Pose method’. The ‘Pull’ phase is where your trailing foot is pulled forward below the hips before the next foot strike. The trailing foot should be at or above the height of the knee as it passes below your hips. This is sometimes referred to as the leaver and is the distance from your hip to the extremity of your leg. If your foot is above your knee the leaver length is to your knee and if your foot is below your knee the leaver is to your foot. The shorter the leaver the less energy is required to drive your leg forward and in turn encourage a powerful knee drive.

On your video below I have paused at the point where you begin to drive your knee forward and measured the angle of your knee flexion.

Observations and recommendations:

For optimum knee drive through the ‘Pull’ phase I would aim for an angle of 90 degrees or less, let’s call this the pull angle.

As you can see I have measured your pull angle at 88 degrees which is great. This tends to increase as we fatigue and strength and flexibility in your quadriceps and hamstrings is the main influencing factor in your pull angle.

Butt kicks are a great drill to incorporate into a warm-up routine and will get your hamstrings firing through their full range. The video below shows an example of this drill. I would also recommend stretching your hamstrings and quadriceps thoroughly after your run for at least 30 seconds on each muscle.

Posture

When running you should try to maintain a neutral spine with your core engaged, shoulders relaxed and externally rotated and your head looking directly ahead.

This posture enables you to perform a full inhale/exhale and maintains your kinetic chain enabling even power distribution through your body.

Postural defects such as hunched shoulders can restrict your chest cavity and limit the volume of air you can inhale. A disengaged core can break your kinetic chain resulting in an uneven load and power distribution through your body.

The image below is taken just as your supporting foot leaves the ground to check for postural alignment. What I am looking for is alignment between your ankle, hip, shoulder and head.

Observations and recommendations:

As you can see there is good alignment and you are looking directly ahead. You should check in with your posture from time to time to ensure that you are not tensed up and you are holding your head nice and high. Maintaining a strong core will help you maintain your kinetic chain and if you don’t already try to incorporate some core strengthening exercises at least twice a week.

Closing remarks

This assessment has focused on some key elements of the running gait that can expose you to injury risk and have a negative impact on your running efficiency. What I have discovered over the years is that the key to injury free and efficient running is to unlock the mobility restrictions that modern life can impose on us. By maintaining mobility, flexibility and strength you can enhance your running experience further than you ever imagined.

Through The Running Education Centre I am dedicated to providing the best advice and coaching to make you the best runner that you can be and enable you to run for life. As I develop the The Running Centre I will be able to offer you a range of educational and coaching services. Please feel free to contact me directly via email or through my Facebook page (the button below to take you there) for any advice or bespoke coaching services.

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