While in Spain for our annual training camp we had the opportunity to film a number of our athletes running, which gives rise to some interesting points for discussion. Thanks to all the athletes for agreeing to their pictures being shared.
Firstly we will look at landing patterns and the position of the knee relative to the ankle upon landing. You can see in the images below that we have quite a lot of variation within a relatively small sample of athletes. Forefoot, midfoot and heel strike landing patterns are all demonstrated.
You might think, when you look at them, that these images represent slightly different phases within the gait cycle. They are in fact the same phase but this is one part of the gait cycle that varies widely between individuals. I suspect you will see less variation when it comes to the position of the knee relative to the ankle among highly trained (sorry guys!) elite runners and triathletes. Foot strike patterns however remain very variable even among elite level runners. So who do you think has ideal technique?
We also made some interesting observations from behind thanks to Amanda chasing each athlete down the side of the lake barefoot on her bike with a GoPro mounted on her handlebars. Again you will see quite different movement strategies by the different athletes. In most you will see some degree of drop in the pelvis towards the swing leg known as lateral pelvic tilt. You will also see some people shifting their trunk towards the stance leg. This can come from the lumbar spine (low back) and thoracic spine (mid back) side flexing towards the stance leg or a section of the spine doing all the work (see third picture below). In the third image, the mid back is quite upright but there is significant side flexion in the low back.
So who has ideal alignment when viewed from behind? There is a lot more to gait analysis than looking at the trunk and pelvis during mid stance (the phase of gait in the photos) but this is a good place to start. We have not yet looked at arm swing or the path that the lower limbs follow during the different phases of the gait cycle.
When we perform our video swim analysis, our athletes are often quite surprised at what they see and things were no different when we reviewed the running videos. We often think we move in a particular way but the reality can be quite different. Our awareness of body position and movement can change for all sorts of reasons. Injury is a common cause. All sorts of things also influence how we move, even our emotions. Have you ever run angry? Habitual postures also play a part. I have no doubt that sitting for eight to ten hours a day has a profound influence. Visual feedback is a powerful tool and making the above athletes aware of how they move is the first step towards improving the control of the pelvis and trunk while running.
We were lucky enough to have Gail teaching yoga while we were away. If you have been to Gail’s yoga classes you know that she places a big emphasis on self-awareness throughout the class. Not only was Gail’s yoga a great way to build a team, relax and recover from the day’s activities, I think it was also a very valuable exercise to improve awareness of your body, how your body moves and how movement influences your body. I can certainly remember those stretches using the yoga belts!
Is it just me that finds this stuff absolutely fascinating? We will discuss the answers to the questions above and more in detail over coffee this weekend I hope!
See you on Saturday. Tim (LFTC Coach).