Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Starting Over Again - at 168 Steps/Minute


Here is a true Hobbled Runner post, as it's all about running - and there is some hobbling involved.

I posted in May about my latest running injury, where tightness and pain in my right calf sent me hobbling home one mile into a run.  A subsequent trip to the doctor and physical therapist (PT) brought the diagnosis that I was walking wrong.  Various exercises were prescribed - and for the most part followed - and then it was time for the running analysis.

I returned to the PT's office where Sam put me on a treadmill and filmed me running - from several vantage points.  Sam said I was over-striding, pushing off too much with my calves resulting in strain to those muscles.  I was also "crossing the line" with my strides:  rather than having my feet fall on either side of an imaginary line, I was placing one foot directly in front of the other - and sometimes even overlapping a bit so that might right foot would fall a bit to the left of this imaginary line running down the middle of the road/treadmill.  This improper foot placement resulted in strain on my right knee (had that for years).  And to top it all off my longer than necessary stride, resulted in my body moving up and down more than necessary.

To sum it all up:  I'm bouncing too high, striding too long, and my feet are not hitting the ground correctly.  And who said running was easy?

Sam "prescribed" even more exercises - more glut work - and told me to use a metronome.  My ideal running cadence was declared to be 168 beats/steps per minute.  Luckily I just got a new iPhone 5 for work, so I downloaded a free Metronome App, set it at 168 beats (steps) per minute, and I was off.

Talk about weird - I felt like I was shuffling along with little mincing steps.  During the first short run/walk at 168 I noticed I was using different muscles:  my quads were lifting more so became tired; my calves were relaxed - and I could actually wiggle my toes in my running shoes.  (Now you don't need to wiggle your toes while running - but by relieving my calves of so much work - my foot became free and relaxed).  I also noticed that I was running more erect and my head seemed to be pretty steady, rather than rising and falling with each step.

But I'll be damned if it doesn't work!  My calf is better.  I feel like I could run for miles.  I've had several runs of 3 miles with no calf problems at all.

Now I don't much are for running with an iPhone.  Of course I carry it in my hand and don't use ear buds.  Yes, I know there are all sorts of ways to carry a phone hands-free and many/most runners seem to be plugged in while running.  But I'm old school - I prefer to be alone with my thoughts while running.  My goal is to internalize the new cadence so that I can leave my phone at home.  Until then, I'm running with the phone beating along - 168 steps a minute.