Running technique

There's a well known saying that there are three kinds of runners:

  1. Runners who are injured
  2. Runners recovering from injury
  3. Runners who are about to get injured

Jack runningI got into running in 2010 in order to run the Brighton marathon and I went to a couple of the organiser's training days, which were stacked full of useful resources and presentations. One of the session was in the ballroom of the Hilton Hotel, which is a pretty big venue and was rammed to capacity. 90% of the people there were running a marathon for the first time. Somebody got up to talk about running injuries and asked for a show of hands in turn for people who had suffered from: Achilles problems, shin splints or ITB– and between those three common conditions and all of the hundreds of people in the room, there was barely a hand that stayed down. The moral of the story is that runners get injured… It’s inevitable!

Picture right: Jack showing of his highly refined running technique...

The thing is though, if you enjoy running and taking part in OCRs as much I do (and I believe the majority of Mudstacle members do), getting injured is a very depressing and upsetting experience.

Early last year I had a relapse of a bad case of ITB that I first experienced when training for that marathon four years previously. I felt it twinge when out for a training run so rested it for a while, but with such a packed calendar of OCRs, training and league races I didn't want to stop altogether. I just eased up on the training, booked in to see a physio but, on the whole (like most people), I carried on regardless. This, obviously, didn’t work and I ended up with a DNF at Brutal 10, dropping out of two events I had paid for and only completing two of the four laps I’d signed up for at Nuts Challenge.

This is when I started to try a ton of different methods to get myself back on track. I saw more physios, I went to get deep tissue sports massage on my legs numerous times, which was utterly excruciating, bought various bands to wrap round my legs to ease the pain and foam rolled daily. However, none of these treatments really seemed to do anything and each time I went out running again it was as if nothing had happened.

Running hard

This was when I searched a bit harder and discovered Stride UK who (luckily enough) are based in my home town and are one of the country’s top experts in gait analysis and injury-free running.

Marker penFor those that are unfamiliar, gait analysis is the act of filming runners on a treadmill then playing it back in slow motion to closely scrutinise style and technique. It’s a common tool in running shops when sizing customers up for the optimum running shoe but here they go into far more detail. Every aspect was analysed, including which part of the foot the runner lands on, the angle of the knee in mid stride, the position of the spine and many more factors that gives the physio a ton of information.

From the second I walked through the door I could feel his expert eyes studying every movement I made. As he marked my body with marker pen (to more clearly see the movement), we chatted and he asked many questions about my running history – frequency, distance, pace, experience – enough information to paint a clear picture of the amount and type of running I do. He noticed and commented on the way I sat, the way I stood, the wearing down of my trainers and any of my muscles that I was unconsciously rubbing.

After the gait analysis was filmed from all four sides, he took me through it in minute detail, pointing out everything I was doing right and wrong. From there he was able to make an accurate diagnosis of where the underlying problems behind my ITB were and showed me a selection of exercises and stretches to fix myself. He then set me homework that I had to promise to complete, which included regular stretching and conditioning exercises.

To cut a long story short, I did my homework religiously and four weeks later I completed a double OCR weekend running 10 miles on the Saturday and 12 on the Sunday without any problems at all. I was so so happy to be back in the game. Nine months later and I’m still clear of injury. Any time I feel a niggle I take a short rest, go back to the same routine that Stride UK showed me and the niggles disappear.

Phil at Nuts

The most important thing that I learnt is that ITB and many other running aches and pains cannot be cured with deep tissue massaging and foam rolling alone and if we want to continue doing what we love, we must find the root of the problem. For me it was tight hip flexors and weak glutes but there are any number of key issues that could be affecting each of us.

Mudstacle Discount at Stride UK

The best news of all is that Stride UK have very kindly offered a 20% discount off their Gold (full body) or Iron (full body with treatment / conditioning) running technique analysis packages to any Mudstacle Members (which pays for your membership alone). As a leading expert in the field they have athletes travel from all over the world to visit them and even offer to pay half the travel costs if you’re coming a long way (see their website for T&Cs).

If you’re struggling with running injuries then trust me, it is well worth the price. I consider my trip there as the best money I’ve spent out on my running and that includes my beloved X-Talons!!

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  1. Good write up Phil 🙂 I myself took the Iron Module at Stride a few weeks back (having suffered from ITB since June last year) and really enjoyed my session with Stride. The folks there sure do know their stuff and it was also great for me to actually be able to see what was going wrong with my running (my left hip kept abruptly dropping much deeper than my right. Equally, my right foot somehow swung inwards at the last second before impact.

    All things said, the reason for my comment:

    Through my work I have Health Insurance from Aviva. After many phone calls to and fro and confirming it a dozen times before booking the session, they agreed to carry the costs!

    So, long comment short: [b]If you have health insurance, chances are you can get a session with Stride UK for free if you’re injured and referred to see a specialist by a GP. There may be a lot of pfaff getting them (the insurance) to agree to it, but just make it crystal clear to them that Stride Uk have qualified Physio Therapists (call Stride UK for more info on that). [/b]

  2. Running injuries can be fairly complicated. Even gait/pro-nation analysis and deep tissue massages (which are bloody painful) can have little help if there is fundamental issues for instance in your knee. I went through all of this, got knew running shoes (which made it worse) and it turned out I need key hole surgery to clean under the knee cap. If you’re having persistent issues see a doctor, that is my advice.

    • I thoroughly agree with you Alan, running technique analysis can certainly assist overall running performance by uncovering any potential muscle weakness, but if there was an underlying knee problem (whether meniscal or cartilage related), any half decent triage process should have flagged this up during case history prior to analysis. And that’s certainly something that we would have done here at StrideUK if you had visited us. Shops providing gait analysis for trainer recommendation is a nice technology rich gimmick but certainly has it’s limitations based on the experience of the staff interpreting it. We’ve very rarely found means to cure any runner through investing in a different pair of shoes. These days, too much evidence to suggest that shoes have very little to do with the bigger performance picture. In the meantime, I do hope you have made a full recovery and planning your next mudstacle challenge. Regards Mitchell Phillips, StrideUK!


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