Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Biomechanical Analysis at UPANDRUNNING Dubai, Al Wasl Road

I’m a heel striker. I didn’t think I was, but the video evidence you can see below is conclusive. When wearing traditional running shoes my heel strikes the ground first. This explains a lot!

Long standing readers of this blog will know all about the problems I’ve had in the past 18 months when I set about trying to run barefoot. I did too much too soon and within two months I was on crutches. (To read more see here: http://barefootindubai.blogspot.com/2010/04/learning-hard-way.html) Since moving my feet back into trainers, and more importantly really starting to enjoy my running again, I’m starting to get an appetite for another marathon.

I’ve completed the London marathon twice, in 2002 and 2005, but I suffered terribly and was disappointed both times. Maybe now I’m older and wiser I can do better. With this in mind I decided it was time to really look carefully at how I run. In the past few years, as soon as I’ve started to up my mileage past the 30 miles a week mark I’ve suffered pain on the outside of my knees. This time I want to fully investigate any root problems before I increase my mileage, so I checked in for a Biomechanical Analysis at UPANDRUNNING Dubai with Graham Poynor-Woods (gpw@upandrunningdubai.com) a Orthotics Specialist and Biomechanics Coach.
Two video cameras, one from the side and one from behind, recorded my running; barefoot, with Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs), and finally in my Nike Pegasus. The next stage was a range of mobility tests, checking my intrinsic biomechanics looking for any imbalances and checking my pronation. This is how the foot rolls when you strike the floor, and overpronation is when the feet roll inward too much. This is where orthotics can be helpful since they can help repositioning the foot.

The report provided was very comprehensive with details instructions for exercises and stretches with will help correct my imbalances, as well as specific recommendations on the correct footwear for my feet and gait. Also what was really fantastic was the CD with all of the video footage with proper software which allows for proper comparison by being able to watch 4 screens at once and a host of other tools. This video is terrible by comparison, and I avoided the camera from behind shots so that no one could be offended by my hairy back.

So what does being a heel striker mean? The first problem is that with every step I’m stopping my momentum, in effect braking with each footfall. It’s my inertia which is bringing my non-striking leg forward. A better style, as explained in the POSE method, is to allow gravity to work more in your favour, to think of running as a series of falling forwards. Smaller strides, where the foot lands on the mid- to forefoot reduces the braking with each step. It’s much more efficient.

The second issue is the shock of each impact. Heel striking relies on your trainers to disperse the weight of impact, but there’s a shock through the ankles, knees and hips. If a footfall lands underneath the centre of gravity, with a bent knee the natural suspension systems in the body of the foot arches and Achilles reduce this impact. Less impact = less chance of injury. Simples.

Last time I tore off and smashed my foot. This time if I want to transition to a more midfoot strike I need to ensure that the trainers I wear provide adequate mid- and forefoot cushioning. Graham has recommended Newton running shoes (http://www.newtonrunning.co.uk/), so I’m very keen to give these a try when I’m back in the UK next month. This time I'm going to adjust slowly. I jog the 2km from the office to home most nights, so I'll use these jogs to work on my form and technique. Most importantly I'll listen to my body this time, and not try to run through the pain. Patience is what it takes.

The test was conducted at UPAND RUNNING, 969 Al Wasl Road, Dubai. See http://www.upandrunningdubai.com/ or call +971 4 328 4600 for prices and more info.

Huge thanks to Graham for all his help and support.

Fitness in Dubai features reviews of all the latest fitness programmes and local gyms, such as The Circuit Factory, 24 Fitness and CrossFit LifeSpark, as well as reviews of fitness fads, fitness tests and fitness equipment, from Vibram Five Fingers barefoot running shoes to VO2 Max testing. Ultimately, this fitness blog - as featured in Good Taste, Men's Fitness, Time Out and Shape magazines - contains everything you need to know about fitness in Dubai, UAE, in the Middle East. Bookmark it now.


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