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My running form revealed

Posted by Elizabeth Comeau  August 14, 2012 11:02 AM

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So, here's the post you've all been waiting for: the results of my running gait analysis. Sorry it took me a while to getting this post up, but I had to wait for the official documentation on my results to arrive and I wanted to digest and understand it myself as best as I could before passing along the information to you.

Before I get to the results, let me first give you an idea the analysis entailed, and what it was like.

I arrived at Boston Running Center to meet with Joe McConkey, the running center's head coach and wealth of exercise knowledge (he's a certified USA Track and Field coach and has his master's degree in exercise science.)

Despite being terrified that McConkey was going to tell me I had horrible, awful, terrible, no-good, very-bad form, he put me at ease once we started talking about what I wanted to learn from the analysis and what kinds of tests he was going to run to assess my gait. His questions made me realize right away that he wasn't going to judge me, but instead, he wanted to get as much information as possible about my running routine, my fitness level, and my physical capabilities in order to help me get the most from my body.

Next he ran me through a series of simple tests.

McConkey inspected the wear marks on my running shoes, checked my arches and leg muscles to see if there were any significant differences between my right leg versus left. He checked my flexibility by having me do some squats and bend forward at my hips. After that he had me run on a treadmill (first barefoot and then in my shoes.) And finally, we went outside so he could check my stride and form on a less forgiving surface than a treadmill.

After that, he compiled all of his notes and measurements and sent me a document explaining where my problem areas are and how to work on them. Here's what he said in that document:

Primary concern: Pronounced asymmetries in the arm mechanics and upper body rotations, characteristics
• Right shoulder held 1” higher
• Right elbow pulled back further than Right
• Left arm extends (hand lowers) 2-3” more than Right

Likely cause: Previous history of competitive rowing, sleeping on the same side of the body, postural distortions
from currently undiscovered sources.

Secondary Concern: Anterior Pelvic Tilt while running

Likely cause: Tight hip flexors and lower back combine with weak abdominals and glutes, reversing these is step number 1 (strength abdominals and glutes and relax/stretch hip flexors/lower back). Postural cues will also help with this postural issue.

The good news is that McConkey didn't say my form was horrific, but I clearly do have some things to work on. But, the other good news he told me is that the shoes I'm wearing (minimalist running shoes) are likely helping to correct slightly some of the issues I have (such as heel striking), and that if I really work on correcting my hip drop, which we are assuming comes from years of rowing on one side of a boat, I'll be in good shape and become a more efficient runner. He said heel striking is fairly common, but that if you are aware of it and try various drills to improve your form while working on correcting your existing postural problems your likelihood of getting injured will go down significantly.

He recommended foam rolling stretches and exercises as well as the recommendation of doing shuffle drills .

So there you have it. Look for posts upcoming on my adventures in foam rolling and other steps I'm taking to address my hip drop.

Have you ever consulted a professional for help with your form while exercising?

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.


Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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