With all of these virtual races going on, I was looking for a new Personal Best. So far I have been finding it very difficult to maintain intensity and buffer discomfort while “racing” on my own, so I thought, what else can I do to give me that exhilaration of doing something I’ve never done before?
Obviously, the answer was to run a 5K in an inflatable T-Rex costume. So, I went to the place where all great purchases are made, Amazon.com, and acquired the aforementioned costume. It arrived and sat in my apartment until the day before the “race”, when I finally tried it on. I quickly realized that this was going to be much more difficult than I anticipated. This was going to be an adventure!
I decided to do my 5k on Columns drive, well-known around the Atlanta area for being a flat and mostly shaded place to run. This was advantageous not only because I wouldn’t have to deal with any hills, but also its popularity would ensure that my feat did not go unnoticed. The fan felt nice on the back of my legs as I suited up and got ready to run. I was cautiously optimistic that maybe I wouldn’t drown in my own sweat after all.
I started my run, and quickly realized that the top of the costume flopping around was going to be a huge issue, as well as my tail dragging the ground. A friend suggested that I hold my tail with my tiny T-Rex arms, and I did so for the first half of the 5K. I also learned how to push against the front wall of the costume so that it didn’t whack me in the face with each stride. Settling into a nice rhythm, I waddled along and waved to passing cars. I could barely hear anything over the fan and swishing of my short legs, but people cheered me on and slowed down to take pictures.
I began to notice an ache and fatigue of the front of my hips, and thought, “I must be over a mile in!”. Once I figured out how to look at my watch (I had to pull my arm back into the belly of the costume), I was disappointed to discover that I had run ¾ of a mile. As I reached the turnaround, I let out a whoop of achievement. By that time there was a significant fog of the face window and the nylon was suctioned to my calves. I could no longer feel the cool breeze of the fan, and the sweat was really beginning to pour.
I picked up speed as I acclimated to the T-Rex shuffle, and finished strong. When I slipped off my disguise, I found myself drenched in sweat, even more than normal for this time of year in the south. It was totally worth it, and so much fun.
The next day I woke up incredibly sore. Most notably in my hip flexors, adductors, and medial hamstrings. I was so sore it was comical. However, this experience got me thinking about my experience as a Physical Therapist, and how changing running form impacts pain and soreness. Runners often report soreness or fatigue in different areas of the body (calves, hips, quads, etc.), and I find that this is largely in part to either muscular weakness or differences in running form.
There is no “perfect” running form, and we all have individual differences based on a number of factors, with strength and mobility a significant factor, yet still not all-encompassing of the overall picture. While there are some guiding principles in terms of what is considered “ideal” running form, this looks different for everyone. Precise gait analysis becomes even more important in times of injury. Not only can we get clues about why the injury occurred in the first place, but also observe compensatory patterns that may be perpetuating the injury. Sometimes a small running gait change can offload the injury and speed up the recovery process.
The moral of the story is that changing your running form significantly changes the stress on your body. When it comes to efficiency, ability to recover, and risk of injury, running form matters.
Gait analysis is a cornerstone of our treatment at Precision. Let us help you become more efficient and stay healthy!
Keep going, you got this!
Kacy Seynders, PT, DPT