I recently completed my first gait retraining session with my physiotherapist Robbie Billen. What is “gait retraining” you may ask? In short, gait retraining is giving yourself the visual cues to correct your own running form. Here is an article Robbie and my coach Reinout passed along explaining the recent findings of a study done by Dr. Richard Willy at Eastern Carolina University on the success of running retraining.
Often we are not aware of what we are doing with our bodies. For instance, you may have thought you were a great dancer until you saw that unfortunate home video from your friend’s wedding (as the picture at right confirms). Running, and many other sports such as swimming, is the same way; you actually need to see yourself in motion to realize the technical issue.
Thus, Robbie placed markers on my knees and set up a camera so I could watch myself run in real time on a treadmill. Then, taking an external focus, he asked me to make the appropriate changes so that my knees would land more in-line. Rather than being told specifically how to “fix” or “alter” my gait, I was left to find my own solution appropriate for my body type. In my case, I increased my step frequency, thus landing with a more vertical lower leg and flatter foot strike. We repeated the exercise several times (running normal then with the modification), so that I could commit to muscle memory what it should feel like to run with correct form.
Now when my coach says “don’t let your knees slide inwards” I actually know what that feels like and can correct it more easily, rather than guessing the specific motor pattern. Keep in mind that trying to adopt perfect textbook running form like 1500m Olympian Mathew Centrowitz is probably a losing battle, (and may lead to running like a robot), if you are particularly injury prone, this can be an effective tool for injury-prevention and for improving running efficiency.
For more information on this topic or to schedule an appointment with Robbie Billen visit: www.runningsmart.be. Follow Robbie on Twitter at @robbiebillen for useful tips, advice and other health related research.
In the meantime, happy running!