Monday, September 1, 2014

Hip alignments, learning to paw, and my first run back

Ever take a break from running and are too scared to try again for fear that despite taking 3 weeks off, icing every night, and doing all your foam rolling / stretching/ and strengthening exercises that you won't actually feel better? 

Last week was a test run (pun intended) on the treadmill at the PT office to not only see how the knee pain felt, but also for Leah to get a better idea of my hips / pelvis / knee alignment during actual running. Knee pain came on toward the end, but more importantly everything felt 'unnatural' and weak- after a few minutes my body remembered again what it should be doing and it did feel a little better. 

She used this AWESOME app, Coaches Eye, which allows you to break it down frame by frame and highlight areas for improvement. She was able to send me my video as well but unfortunately the edits don't save when you share the video. For $5, well worth the money if you're trying to analyze your form and make changes.

My biggest offender is I have a misalignment in my hips that cause them to drop when running (top photos) My left hip sits higher than my right, but its not that my pelvis or leg is longer, its more that I've always favored it and my body naturally has a lean, over time my back has tightened up and now the lean is just natural- I can't believe I never noticed this before.  I have exercises to help with this, but I have a feeling this is a long road to correction as it will always have to be something I'm conscious to correct. 

The next biggest offender is my stride length- aka when I plant my foot, my stride is too far out from my center of gravity. Most people assume that when you're tall, you're automatically a faster, more efficient runner, when in actuality its the opposite. We can take long strides,  which in turn means a slower turnover unless we remember to bring the legs back in closer to our body before taking the next step--- this definitely does not come naturally and the only time I ever do this is when I'm feeling fresh and am going for a certain time. The more tired during a run I get, the lazier I get with my stride, thus a contributor to my reoccurring knee pain as you're putting more force on your knees the farther away from COG they are. 

I've found that if I continually run on the treadmill I naturally adjust my turnover and stride length to avoid hitting the plastic shield at the front of the treadmill--- last year I did a lot of treadmill running during the winter to avoid darkness after work as well as avoid the ice. The stride did transfer over to  races and I actually ran my 2 best times during that 1 month stint fresh into spring. 

Although I could re-visit switching all my runs to the treadmill again for a bit, thats not realistic so I did learn a drill to help correct this, the art of "pawing".  You basically stand in place like photo below, and quickly go through a fast full rotation at the hip to imitate a running motion. Do this for one full min on each side. 

I haven't mastered doing this in place, so I have to have something nearby to balance on. Leah also mentioned that when she was  in college (she ran for Stanford), they would do several sets of these drills right before speedwork to get your legs used to the fast rotation. Let's be honest I don't do speedwork, but I can keep this in my back pocket if I should choose to do it in the future. 

So Labor day was the big plunge to take all this into action and actually go out for a real run. The plan was to do 3 miles with at least the first mile focusing on the art of 'pawing' and  adjusting my stride. Not only was I pain free, but I was actually able to do this for the full mile! I wasn't sure if it was the adjustment in stride that caused me to go a little faster, the not running for 3+ weeks, or the high humidity at 9am (typically need to do 6am runs in the summer), but I was WIPED after that first mile.  The rest of the run was a walk run combo as to not jinx myself and to find my rhythm of breathing again.

I can't remember the last time I felt proud to finish 3 miles, despite the walking, and was just so thankful that I felt semi- normal. I still have a lot of work to do as I can definitely feel the weakness in my left leg since I've been babying it, but happy to finally at least be able to try to get back on track. 

Heres to a continued recovery so I can be back at it come October for both Bourbon Chase and Ragnar TN!


  1. I get tired of people thinking that because i'm tall that I'm a faster runner with my long strides. People don't put together than the Kenyans and Ethiopians who win all of the top marathons are under 5'6" and weigh a buck thirty. It makes me laugh a few years ago when Chris Solinsky became the first american born runner to go under 27 min in the 10,000m that the commentators went on an on about how tall he was and how amazing that a big guy could run so fast. Chris stands at the towering height of 6'1". Outside of Track and Field has any 6'1" American male athlete been referred to as "really tall"?

    So yeah, totally with you there. Stride frequency, efficiency, and power to weight ratio all the way.

    Best of luck with your rehab and future running.

  2. Glad to hear you are on the mend and you have found a way to remedy this. Keep following Leah's direction!!! Love you! xoxoxo

  3. So glad to hear your first run went well. What a smart comeback!

  4. When I trained for my first half marathon, I had terrible knee and foot pain. I went to a sports doc, he took one look at my leg length discrepancy and sent me immediately to a chiropractor to work on my hip alignment. After a few adjustments, TAH-DAH, all pain was gone. Now I just go every couple of months for another adjustment when I start feeling off.

  5. ahh, you and me both, sista! i feel like i'm the never ending PT runner and wonder how does everyone else stay healthy all the time!?!?! weak hips, weak glutes, tight this, tight that, blah, blah. Hopefully all the work will pay off and you will running pain free!