…And other technology to get you up to speed!
For any runner, preventing pain or injury is likely a high priority. And in order to keep runners on the road, there are a lot of factors to consider – mileage, cross training, rest and recovery. Not to mention strength training, flexibility, and mobility work. Plus there’s proper fueling and hydration. Stress and sleep can play a role. And of course, shoes.
So let’s say that delicate balance runs off track and you find yourself injured. The best way to get yourself back up to speed if you’re not able to prevent an injury is to be proactive and get to the root of the problem. While a physical therapist might not be the best resource for nutrition advice or other various psychosocial factors, PTs are known as “movement specialists” and have the knowledge and extensive skill set to help with a big part of that equation – strength, flexibility, and mobility. The standard static assessment and testing may be all your therapist needs to identify deficits in these areas. However, if you want to do one better, find yourself a PT that will do a video gait analysis to see those imbalances in action, and delve deeper into how they might be affecting your running mechanics.
Capturing video enables your therapist to slow things down, compare side to side, and view all angles. There are lots of apps and software programs out there (Hudl Technique and Coach’s Eye, to name a few) that allow for manipulation of the video in order to make things more objective or point out subtle idiosyncrasies and asymmetries. Another benefit of capturing video is that you can sit down with your PT, see for yourself what might be going on, and do a little problem solving – sometimes this is the best way to learn. If your therapist is able to safely store your video, you can perform multiple analyses and track your progress over time as you get stronger, improve your flexibility and mobility, or play with some changes to your stride and running mechanics.
One such change that is hot in the research right now is cadence. Simply defined, cadence is the number of steps that you take per minute. It has been proposed by numerous cohorts that altering cadence may have an impact on injury risk. While the jury is still out on what the “optimal” cadence might be, generally speaking, a higher cadence (more steps per minute) is better than a lower cadence. A study by Heiderscheit et al in 2011 found that small increases in step rate (i.e. cadence) decrease loading at the hip and knee and may reduce injury risk for runners. And good news – of all the things that happen mechanically while running, cadence is a relatively easy one to change and train. Your therapist can use a metronome to help you modify your natural cadence. And for training at home (or for those people who can’t stand the clicking) you can try Weav Run, a free cadence training app that matches music to your selected step rate.
Final thoughts for those injured runners: oftentimes we know the difference between the type of pain that we can push through and the type of pain that spells trouble. The sooner you seek help for those out-of-the-ordinary pains, the sooner you can get back on the road or back into the race. A physical therapist is equipped to identify imbalances that may be affecting your running –through a variety of means. Utilizing all the tools and technology that we have both in assessment and treatment, in the clinic and outside, can only help get you better faster.