An elite distance runner who is qualified for the Olympic Trials recently wrote to me. Her message…”Thanks for analyzing my gait the other day. I have been working on picking up my heels especially when I’m fatigued and it really does feel easier and makes me speed up. I’m glad I had the “before” and “after” so I can see how my form changes with fatigue.”
I appreciated the note because most runners really have no idea how they look while running.
Almost every athlete I assessed this past year expressed surprise as I pointed out different strategies to help them improve their efficiencies. Running form is a very interesting conversation. While there is not agreement across the board, there are obvious ways to improve efficiency that seem to resonate regardless of form preference.
When I do a gait analysis, I do so using my OptoJump technology, which allows me to slow the athlete down by milliseconds and to progress the video forward one millisecond at a time. I also have the ability to freeze a moment, and use it to illustrate a point. I can also bring up another instance…either of the same athlete or another athlete, to compare the athlete to at the moment on the same screen.
Naturally, because I use the Optojump for gait analysis, I have in effect, the most sophisticated biomechanics lab in the world right there in my office. As a result, I have data about symmetry, cadence, contact time, step length etc that fills in any gaps in understanding, that is fully integrated with video from two points of view. Having all this data provides me with a really full picture of the athlete, and the tools to help them see what I see.
I recently used the Optojump to determine the correct shoe to wear based on the athletes training pace. The athlete, a pro runner for Brooks Sports, brought in several pairs of shoes and several pairs of orthotics. We looked at her running at various speeds (Long Slow Distance, Training Pace, Tempo Pace and Race Pace) in each shoe with each pair of orthotics. And we identified the specific shoe/orthotic combination that worked best to improve symmetry at different paces. The athlete was thrilled. Now she has a scientific understanding of her gait dynamics, and a shoe strategy based on scientific analysis. Pretty cool!
I am often asked if a gait analysis will help improve racing speed? Well, I can describe one case that illuminates this best: A Masters athlete came to see me after qualifying for the World Championships in the Olympic Distance Triathlon requesting a gait analysis and a movement screen. During his gait analysis I suggested several form improvements, and after his functional movement screen I also instructed him in several flexibility exercises. The result? During the next 6 weeks , he experienced a dramatic improvement in form accompanied by a significant reduction in his 10 K time. Needless to say, he was THRILLED.
Are you a runner? Would you like to know more about your gait form? Would you like to be more efficient so that you can run faster when you race? My 2 cents…if you run, you should get a gait analysis. Period.