You Don’t Even Know How To Run

by jc

Since suffering my first real running injury (IT band syndrome) this past January, I have been extremely frustrated and unable to run any meaningful distances.  I’m currently a big question mark for the Ottawa Half Marathon in May, which completely breaks my heart.

After weeks of mediocre progress, my brother finally suggested that I go see a physiotherapist that he had had a good experience with.  Francine Eastwood (BScPT, Cert. ART provider) works out of the Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Centre (PSI) at Scotiabank Place.  Here they offer an in depth Runner’s Clinic that makes use of “state of the art video analysis” to monitor your running form.



I have been blissfully ignorant to “elite” running form up until this point in my recreational running endeavours.  I figured I had decent form, maybe not Olympic form, but I had been upping my mileage consistently since finishing my soccer career at Carleton in 2010.  Like I said, throughout all that time I had only minor tweaks and bumps in the road – nothing too significant.

Upon meeting Francine I immediately realize I am such a running amateur.  In looking at my old (Asics Gel Blur) and current (Nike LunarGlide 4) running shoes I become somewhat embarrassed as I can’t really provide any rational for why I chose either shoe – I usually just go with what feels comfy.

In my first visit with Francine she looked at my leg flexibility and strength.  She had me go through a few poses (stretches, squats, calf raises, etc.) and then had me walk and run on a fancy green treadmill.  She also attached some targets to the outsides of my knees and the back of my hipbones for the video analysis.

Out of this initial visit I already had one piece of information to ease my mind.  The most probable reason that I got this sudden onset of IT band syndrome was likely due to running extensively on uneven and snowy surfaces in the [pretty much gripless] Nike LunarGlides during those early days of January.  I now know that I need to be in a trail running shoe in the winter… too late for this year unfortunately!

For my second visit Francine had done the full analysis of my running gait and even had a split screen view that I could see myself compared to an elite runner.  It was extremely helpful and I got to keep the DVD but it needs to run on a PC [gross] so I don’t have any pretty images to show you.  I have quite a few things to work on:

Tight muscles:

  1. Extremely tight quads (who knew?!)
  2. Right IT band is extremely tight (duh, not news to me!)

Running form issues:

  1. Cadence is too slow (162 steps/minute)
    -The ideal cadence for a long run pace is around 180 steps/minute
    -Francine suggested downloading the Metronome iPhone app ( set to this beat while on the treadmill to help increase my cadence.  It definitely helps but is a bit annoying.
  2. Landing with foot in front of me (and too much on heel)
    -This problem is causing me to overextend my knee; should be landing with a slight bend in my knee
    -She said that this is likely the biggest factor that’s irritating my IT band.
  3. Leg swing too low
    -I need to pick up my feet a bit more; not just using my hamstrings but also my quads/hip flexors.  I’ve always been a bit of a foot dragger so this is a bad habit that I’m keen to break!
    -This is also another big factor that could be affecting my IT band.
  4. Foot slap (aka. elephant)
    -Francine suggested this is a problem with lower leg strength – as a former competitive soccer player?!  How depressing.
    -She gave me some ankle and calf strengthening exercises to address this problem.
  5. Excessive pelvic drop and knocked knees
    -Working on glute strength will help this.
    -Focus on running with knees apart; do NOT try to change the distance you’re planting your feet.

I left there slightly discouraged and overwhelmed with the amount of things that I had to work on but Francine assured me it really wasn’t that bad.  She said my form is okay but to get to a more elite level and to continue logging high mileage, I’d need to make this changes to avoid future injuries.

She also gave me a page full of strengthening exercises (to be posted soon as WOD #3).  Some of the glute exercises are unbelievably difficult variations on common ones that I had see before – I love it (but I hate it)!

Whether you are injured or healthy, if you are considering PSI’s Runner’s Clinic, I would strongly recommend doing it.  It’s covered by most insurance companies (as a physiotherapy visit) and gave me huge insight into not only my injury but also how I can take my running to the next level.

The rehab continues… but a little bit smarter!