Running Re-Training

To change or not to change, that is the question!

At the end of 2015, I attended an all-day course hosted by Dr Christain Barton, a Melbourne-based Physio highly interested in running injuries through his research and professional practice. The day of learning certainly challenged some areas, re-affirmed others and highlighted various strengths in what we have been doing at Front Runner Sports for the past 6 years.

Marc 1 Marc 2

Altering someone’s running technique usually follows these steps:

  1. Assess the current running pattern
  2. IF any abnormalities exist, identify the problematic ones causing injury or decreased performance
  3. Assess IF the abnormalities can indeed be changed (is it actually due to the person’s anatomical structure? It’s hard to change bone formation)
  4. Discuss whether a change SHOULD be introduced and to what magnitude
  5. Facilitate the appropriate change through the basic components of movement:
    1. Neuromotor (timing and “feeling” of muscle activation)
    2. Strength
    3. Flexibility
  6. Practice the new movement pattern when running, focusing on a maximum of 3 points at one time and building up the interval spent practicing the form.
  7. Re-Assess regularly to chart changes and adjust as necessary.

The main difference I found with our process, is the utilisation of running drills to assist in changing the running form. Part practice of the complex skill of running can be helpful – breaking it down into just the isolated point you want to focus on. Performing drills can get you moving through the right range, at the right speed and get the “feeling” of what you’re trying to achieve when in full flight.

The key ingredient is practice. Christian emphasised this many times during the day. “Just like trying to change someone’s golf swing… you need to PRACTICE it to get any real change.” Research has found that re-training a person’s single leg squat form, alone, will not change their hip mechanics when running (Willy and Davis 2011: The Effect of a Hip-Strengthening Program on Mechanics during Running and During a Single-Leg Squat). So just focusing on the strengthening components alone will not get the job done. There is a fair amount of conscious effort required and cueing and coaching to ensure a smooth transition into a new and improved motor pattern.

The other difficult thing for most clients, when making form changes, is that they often go backwards before things improve. Changing your form will use new muscles in new ways and require a lot more concentration as well as in-efficient muscle timing as they learn to work together in a new pattern. This all leads to a drop in efficiency initially. Over time however there is a large upswing back to the same level of energy required and then an improvement, which is sustained with the new pattern in place.

Before you try to alter your running pattern you need to realise that, with running re-training, it takes:

  • Someone who really knows what they’re looking for and also knows a few different ways to help get the changes required.
  • It takes a lot of practice and concentration on the behalf of the runner wanting to improve.
  • And it takes time, generally 3 weeks to 3 months to get changes to cement in, depending on the level of alteration necessary.

If you’re interested in altering your running form for the better, come and meet our expert team at Front Runner Sports. Click here to watch the transition of one of our runners with shin splints.

Written by Marc See (BSc. Physiotherapy). Physiotherapist at Front Runner Sports and Sub 4min Miler. At Front Runner Physiotherapy, our team specialise in gait analysis and gait re-training. Our Physio’s have a combined 30 years clinical experience and have completed over 3000 2D Gait Analysis services over the past 6 years. We offer specialist assessment and rehabilitation services regardless of your age or ability including- Children’s Gait Analysis, FRESH Womens Only Gait Analysis and 2D Clinical Analysis. 

Bookings with our Physiotherapy team for Gait Analsyis can be made online HERE or by calling 0478841104