November 29th, 2011 9:38 am in
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Running – Beyond Cadence
Cadence: Although some variation of footstrike frequency among runners is necessary based on speed and physical characteristics of individual runners, typically a cadence near 180 (170-190)is considered ideal. This higher cadence of efficient runners can be beneficial because it is associated with less up and down (excess vertical motion), less over striding, less excessive heel strike, less impact peaks, better momentum regarding a more circular and smooth foot flight path, quicker ground contact time and better elastic recoil of passive tissues.
Beyond Cadence: Since running on the spot or even spastic dancing (my style) can produce a cadence of 180-ish steps/minute, how do we run FORWARD and minimize vertical, rotational and lateral energy leaks and inefficiencies?
We use to think that flexibility and strength would help take care of the biomechanics deficiencies/weaknesses, but research is challenging that concept. A recent study by Willy and Davis, 2011 found here studied subjects with abnormal hip adduction and internal rotation when running (associated with runner’s knee – patellofemoral pain syndrome and other injuries). Over 6 weeks, they improved hip strength and single leg squat strength and mechanics significantly over control groups but these strength improvements did NOT change running mechanics. This result is not what they expected.
Below, I have outlined some of the most common causes of inefficiencies in the vertical, rotational and lateral directions and how to translate improved (or adequate) flexibility and/or strength into better running mechanics with GAIT RETRAINING(GR).
Note: Please make any changes slowly and gradually and reduce/stop if more discomfort/pain occurs. Some runners may have structural limitations that make gait retraining difficult or not recommended. Always use discomfort and pain as your guide, regardless of recommendations/advice here or anyone. Discomfort/pain should decrease, not increase (beyond slight and expected muscle soreness) with any changes in gait.
Vertical excess: Inflexibility and calf overuse can abruptly transition smooth forward momentum into the vertical direction.
Strength/flexibility limitations – tight hip flexors (iliopsoas and rectus femoris) and soleus(deeper, lower calf muscle)/achilles. Stretch these muscle groups. Strengthen glutes (lunges, squats, glute bridges) to replace some of the calf overuse.
Gait Retraining (GR):
a) land more softly with less sound
b) squeeze your glutes to get better forward propulsion
c) run tall but sink slightly into your legs
d) don’t push off (as much) at the back of your stride
Rotational excess: A weak core especially in rotation can cause the force of the legs to ‘rag doll’ the upper body into excessive rotation.
Strength/flexibility: tight hip flexors (iliopsoas mostly) can pull the lower back and torso to the side of the extending leg leading to excessive rotation.
Gait Retraining (GR):
a) Try not to let your arms cross the mid line of your upper body
b) Try to toe-off from your first (big toe) and second toe directly behind you (rather than letting your foot leave the ground through the path of least resistance from you shorter outer toes/foot)
Lateral excess: Weak glutes (max, med. and min.) weakness can lead to numerous pains and injuries locally at the hip as well as the knee, ITBand and lower leg.
Squats – double and single leg, quick drop partial squats, hip abductors exercises (clam shells, side-lying leg lifts), glute bridges, various lunges and crossover (grapevine) drills, lateral planks
Gait Retraining (GR):
a) try squeezing your glutes when you run (i.e. hips slightly forward if tightness in the hip flexors allows) – this also helps with vertical excess
b) look in the mirror on a treadmill and try to reduce the opposite hip from dropping on footstrike
In summary, general strength training, flexibility and running drills are beneficial, but to improve running mechanics directly, focusing on the above GR tips during running is key. Even if you are not injured these general guideline should improve the efficiency of all runners.
If you are not sure where your energy leaks or imbalances exist when running and are interested in an extremely slow motion gait analysis filmed outdoors from front, back, uphill, downhill and side angles followed by a review of the recording and any stretching, strengthening and gait retraining necessary upon follow-up, please let me know. More info at: http://draaroncase.com/runninganalysis - (may be covered by extended health under Chiropractor – my profession).
I hope this helps, Aaron