The Running Assessment

This year, as I’ve been trudging my way up the canyon, interspersing fartleks trying to improve my speed, I’ve also been attempting to tend to my running form.  Several months ago, I won a running evaluation in a silent auction. I figured I could use some professional advice on my technique and perhaps identify some ways to improve my sluggish pace. Truthfully, I had only placed the bid because it was offered by my great friend and rock star physical therapist Lydia. If anyone could get me on the fast track it was Lydia.

Lydia is the honest, dependable, fun loving friend everyone wants to have.  I met Lydia through my work, and we have been friends for almost a decade.  We went through our second pregnancies together, have swapped nights of babysitting, and our kids have had numerous play dates. Together, we founded our very own book club, which has been renamed a wine tasting club as we have yet to incorporate a book into our agenda. She was one of the first people I confided in after the arrhythmia driving scare that precipitated my open heart, and she was there every step of the way after my surgery. She is a fearless yet humble athlete who believes running is fun, and she has conquered at least one crazy mud-filled-boot-camp-like race. While I find it hard to understand why anyone would willingly enlist in this genre of racing, I’m glad Lydia did because I no longer feel obligated to clean before she comes over.  If she would put herself through that, she obviously has an extremely high tolerance for dirt. Compared with that race, my disheveled house is a sterile palace and the embodiment of serenity!

Because Lydia is not afraid of heights and she is very thorough, Lydia climbed all of Colorado’s 14ers. For those unacquainted with the hiking terminology, 14ers are hikes that reach over 14,000 feet in altitude at some point. Some people claim there are only 53 14ers in Colorado, but Lydia kept going until she climbed 54 of them. She probably hauled some rocks around with her on that extra hike to supplement the summit and guarantee it would qualify. She’s strong like that. One of the hikes involved scooting on her butt across a narrow precipice to reach the even higher cliff on the other side.

Ummm, that looks a bit sharp for scooting.   Photo courtesy of Lydia, without her exact knowledge of this entire blog.

Ummm, that looks a bit sharp for scooting. Photo courtesy of Lydia, without her exact knowledge of this entire blog.

I can’t imagine having to scoot on my butt across anything at that particular vantage point, other than into the basket attached to the helicopter required to fly my sorry ass off that mountain.

In addition, Lydia happens to be an exceptional PT and she has a soft spot in her heart for all things running related.  I can vouch for her PT skills because I work with her and have seen her results first hand. Before my appointment, I asked Lydia for the lowdown, as I had never been through this before. Lydia told me she would film me running on a treadmill, then we’d sit down together and analyze my movements. She then gave me strict instructions for attire: dark shorts or running skirt, white shirt, and white socks with contrasting sneakers, so as to improve the viewing of my hips, butt, knees and ankles. I heard, “Blah, blah, blah, view your butt.” I contemplated sticking white lettering on my butt, “HI, LYDIA!” for the evaluation, but could only find dark letters. Hopeful, I asked if she’d be filming from any other angles, but unfortunately she sounded confident that they probably wouldn’t need to. It figures. She could have probably told me then and there what I was doing wrong with my running, just from seeing me walk around all the time. I probably have a beacon of all-wrongness flashing from my butt, plain as day to all those who are gait savvy. I asked her how long I would be required to run and she reassured me she only needed about 5 minutes of footage. I was also concerned about how fast I needed to go, but she said only as fast as I wanted. At least that was a relief!

On assessment day, I energetically hopped on the treadmill, but that was as long as my fortitude lasted.  I was only too happy to stop at the five minute mark, as I had developed tightness in my chest, shortness of breath, and I subsequently lapsed into an hour long coughing fit. I was confident of impressing no one, and convinced that I needed an immediate follow up with my cardiologist. Though I was clueless at the time, what would become a month long battle with bronchitis and laryngitis had already taken hold of my lungs. Anyway, the running part was done and it was on to the critique.

All along I have been keenly aware of my tendency to shuffle, but I was still unrealistically hopeful for a semi-coordinated view of myself running. No such luck. My only past experience with treadmill videos were of my heart’s interior, and now I have proven myself awkward and abnormal/erratic/irregular on my exterior as well. We laughed for a while (interspersed with my mad coughing fits) as Lydia pointed out my hilarious knock-kneed running style I had been oblivious to, until that moment. Apparently, if straight ahead is 12 o’clock, normal feet are supposed to point at 10 and 2. Because I am never normal, she made an allowance for my right hip and said my feet are supposed to find 10 and 12. When I try to run, my feet can’t figure out what the hell time it is. The wrong foot is looking for an afternoon siesta while the other wrong one wants brunch.

What time is it?

What time is it?

When you watch me run in slow motion, it’s even worse. It’s amazing I can walk at all without falling down all over the place! She gave me a few exercises to work on and tried to convince me it wasn’t all that bad. I managed to have an appropriate hip lift height and heel strike, and those sound like really important things. And if I can master the 10 and 12 thing, she was confident of a positive effect on my speed and running efficiency.

Since the enlightening running evaluation, I have tried to focus on my feet’s perception of time while logging my mileage, but they only seem to be partially interested in what I have to say. I guess habits can be hard to change, and not unlike my kids, my feet may need repeated instruction. I have also become somewhat more self-conscious as I amble through my workplace. I am afraid of stumbling over my toes and having someone exclaim, “Well, of course, it was bound to happen!” but my colleagues are so nice they’d probably only smile and think it.

Just a few more things to work on! At least it’s a good thing I’ve identified the problem now, before sustaining some catastrophic form of injury to myself, or to those around me. If you see me at the race, best keep some distance, lest I knock knees and cause some form of disastrous running pileup to all within my pigeon toed reach. You’ve been warned!

And as luck would have it, this week I finally found some contrasting lettering.





9 thoughts on “The Running Assessment

  1. I am not as tired as I usually am after mentally supporting you today!!!
    Thanks for the rest and the giggle Champion!


  2. Love reading your blog!. Have you ever thought about vibram five finger shoes?? My PT runs in them and they really improved her gait and strength.


    • Thanks Angela! And, no I haven’t thought about using the toed out shoes, I look ridiculous enough already; although maybe adding some individual toe action would help me claw my way along the track! Actually, I think I still need the arch support of my sneakers, and as my knees are still feeling fine I’m afraid to mess with my shoes just yet. But great idea–they are very popular out here!


  3. Pingback: Sole Searching | My Great Running Blog

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