Form & Biomechanics Evaluation

A few weeks ago, I went and saw Kyle O’Day at Continuum Sports for a comprehensive running form & biomechanics evaluation.  It was a really informative and helpful experience, so I want to share the highlights with you all.  I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite some time, but honestly, there’s so much information it’s a bit daunting!

I decided to do this because I have been chronically injured since I started running, all on the left side of my body.  I’ve had IT band syndrome (that I’ve mostly kicked but tends to rear its ugly head at the most unopportune times….like my first marathon), as well as Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasicitis, a sprained MCL, and piriformis syndrome.  These injuries not only cause me frustration and set me back in my running, but they are EXPENSIVE! I decided that the investment in figuring this out was well worth it after my latest batch of medical bills came rolling in.

Review: Getting a running form and biomechanics evaluation

The Process: I saw Kyle over two appointments.  For the first appointment, we started by going through my running history: training, injuries, mileage, etc.  After we talked (about 20 minutes or so), he had me walk on the treadmill to warm up, and then we got started with the analysis.

Kyle had a ton of fancy equipment and cameras for capturing data & videos from all angles.  He had me run for about 10 minutes to capture the data.  I have to admit, it was hard to not “change” anything about the way I was running since I was so aware that it was all being analyzed!

After the run, he downloaded all the data and went through it piece by piece with me, explaining all of it and answering all my questions.  I’ll get into what we found here shortly, but let me just say that as a huge data nerd, I found all of this super fascinating!

For the second appointment, we did specific strength testing on various muscles in my hip/glute/legs.  After he identified specific weaknesses, he wrote me a plan to help correct my imbalances.  We then went through each exercise to be sure I understood them and would do them properly.  I’ll go back in mid-May for a follow-up!

The Findings:

Oh, where do I start? I guess I’ll start by saying that I went into this assuming I had some sort of weakness on my left side, and I was right.  What I wasn’t expecting was the severity of the weakness, and that I even have some on my right side.

During the first appointment, we really analyzed my form and symmetry.  Kyle had sensors on the treadmill that took data with each step – flight time, contact time, stride length, cadence, etc.  He recorded a data point for each step, and we were able to compare my left side against my right side.  At the beginning of the run, the assymmetry between the two was within a reasonable tolerance.  After just 5 minutes, there was a very large difference in all of these statistics.  Specifically, my left foot had a much longer contact time, shorter flight time, and shorter stride length.  It was crazy, and I couldn’t help but wonder what is happening after 5 miles!

Next, we reviewed the video.  We saw a few things:

  • My overall posture and upper body form is excellent (yes, that made me happy!)
  • My shoe/orthotic combo is near perfect (also made me happy since I just spent a boatload on custom orthothics…)
  • My hips drop on both sides, and this is called a Trendelnberg gait.  It is more predominant on my left side, and is a sign of muscle weakness in the hip/glutes/abductors. Review: Getting a running form and biomechanics evaluation
  • I also show signs of core weakness on my left side (my core/back flex to the left side when my left leg is in mid-stance)
  • I heel strike, which isn’t that big of a deal given my pace.  However, what is an issue is the angle at which I am heel-striking.  It should be around 12%, and I’m over 13.5% Review: Getting a running form and biomechanics evaluation

Also, when we watched the video in full speed, there was this other thing that is kind of hard to explain, but I wasn’t surprised by it at all.  When watching the video, it looks like my right leg is doing a ton of work….and my left leg is just along for the ride.  Slacking.  Bringing up the rear.  I feel like this on my runs sometimes, but it was still alarming to see it so prominent in the footage.

So, the bottom line from my first session: I definitely have weaknesses, but my form overall is good.

My experience receiving a #running form analysis Click To Tweet

The second session was really about narrowing down exactly what those weaknesses are.  Kyle had me on a PT-type table laying down flat.  He’d position my right leg a certain way and have me resist either pushing or pulling.  He then would do the same test on the left side.  The best way I can describe this is by using arm wrestling as a metaphor.  If you’re going up against someone of a similar strength, you end up pushing against each other without getting close to the table.  That is my right side.  If that person is significantly stronger than you, your arm goes straight to the table.  That is my left side.  I’m not kidding….STRAIGHT TO THE TABLE.  We also did some mobility tests and some tests on my core muscles.

Kyle went through a bunch of these and then shared the results with me.  The list of weaknesses is long and very technical, so I’ll spare you the details.  It was a lot more extensive than I anticipated, though.  I asked him….”how the hell does this happen?!”.  He said it can often start with just one injury that changes your gait…and it snowballs from there, especially if there were weaknesses to begin with.

Kyle then wrote my “homework” for me – mobility exercises to do 3-4 times a week, and strength exercises to do 3-5 times a week.  We then went over each exercise in detail and practiced, and set a follow up appointment for 6 weeks later.

Overall thoughts:

I’m so glad I did this.  Yes, Kyle confirmed what I already knew: I have weaknesses on the left side of my body.  However, the difference is that I now have actionable data & a plan to make this better!

I asked Kyle how long it will take to see results, he thinks I’ll see a big improvement in about 6-8 weeks. I’m about halfway through that and I think I am seeing a difference, though it’s hard to say.  The exercises are very simple and quick, which means I’m more likely to do them.  I’m excited to go back and see what changes have happened since I’ve been doing these exercises!

If you have found yourself chronically injured, I really highly recommend getting something like this done.  It was really insightful and I hope the homework I received will keep injuries away during marathon training!

Have you ever gotten anything like this done? What do you think about this type of analysis?

 

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Jess

3 Comments

  1. This is fascinating- I would be very interested to do something like this. I have done simple gait analysis, but nothing quite as in-depth.

    Good luck with all the exercises- finding time for all of those is a challenge for me!

    • Thanks Jessie!! The exercises only take about 10-15 mins so I’ve been able to do them. I’m seeing a difference!

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