There’s a rhythm inherent to good distance running, a lovely cadence when the feet tap the asphalt or dirt or sand or treadmill belt at just the right intervals and the arms swing back and forth in perfect sync.
The problem is finding good distance running in the first place; unlike baseball, football, basketball or other team sports, few noncompetitive runners ever receive lessons on how to run properly. While the lack of uniformity creates a unique viewing experience for crowds during events, it can lead to injuries ranging from the nagging — think runner’s knee or plantar fasciitis — to more serious ones that can keep a runner sidelined for months.
Gilbert physical therapist Heidi Beasley said something that can reduce the risks of those injuries is a simple change in form, which she implements through the Pose Method.
The method is logical and simple in nature but complex and a bit challenging for runners to implement. The logic behind the method, which was created by former Olympic coach Nicholas Romanov in the late 1970s, is to force the body to use less energy and become more efficient by analyzing the poses a runner makes in stride and correcting the form.
In other words, it teaches the runner how to perform his or her sport correctly in lieu of grabbing a pair of shoes and hitting the pavement for 3 or 4 miles at a time.
“We are coached maybe in our distance and how we train, but never how we run itself,” Beasley said.
One of the key areas that receive focus is the landing, which Beasley said is a bit of a hazard for the average runner. The problem, she said, is people have a tendency to land on their heels — an area of the foot that offers little foot or even ankle support. The better place for a runner to strike down upon is the middle of the foot, which offers much greater stability.
Figuring out what a person does wrong requires Beasley to tape a client while they’re running and slow the footage down to approximately 30 frames per second to analyze a person’s pose. She wants to see if a person’s feet fall too far forward during his or her gait, if the person is running with the right cadence and to see if the heel lands first.
Diagnosing the problem the leads to the correction process, which is where the truly difficult part of the process commences. Runners spend between eight to 12 weeks revamping the running form they’ve had for years through repeated exercises, drills, stretching and consultation.
The length of the program varies from person to person, depending on how much work is required. There are very few adults who have perfect running form — sprinter Usain Bolt is one — although Beasley said kids around the age of 5 exhibit the form effortlessly before growing out of it.
The totality of the experience both corrects the form and changes a runner’s psychological outlook on what amounts to a controlled series of falls.
“We have an innate fear of falling, so it’s something you have to get comfortable with,” she said.
Beasley has undergone the training herself — she’s completed a couple of half-marathons and triathlons — and is training friend and fellow runner Carrie Vogiatzis. Vogiatzis, who is about two and a half weeks into her training, said reviewing the recording of her running revealed a lot of the little things she was doing wrong, in particular using her heels as the first point of contact. She trains by running about a half-mile at a time before a quick stop to recover her form, and thus far about half of her body has adapted to the revamped form.
Even with the little quirk in her running stride and the plethora of exercises Vogiatzis performs with Beasley and on her own, she said the rest of the transition has gone swimmingly.
“I’m not where I’m supposed to be, but I’m heading in the right direction,” she said.
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