2017 saw a severe dip in my running motivation. Determined to get back on the trails and leave no stone unturned in my quest to prevent injury and improve performance, I visited StrideUK in Hove for a 3D running technique analysis.
A basic video gait analysis at a running shop in the UK tends to focus on your foot strike to assign a particular style of running shoe. I’ve been down this route many times in the past, and would still advise friends to get one done rather than guessing on a pair of shoes, but the process never gave me enough opportunity to actually learn about my running. I wanted to better understand my running style to improve efficiency, and help me to understand and prevent possible sources of imbalance and injury. The human body is a complex and interconnected machine and it makes total sense in my mind to look at the whole body, in three dimensions, to gather the necessary data for analysis.
Step up StrideUK and Director Mitchell Phillips, one of the earliest adopters of 3D running technique analysis in the UK, and with almost 10 years’ experience in gait analysis. We start by discussing my running goals, injury history and a basic explanation of the technology, before moving to the treadmill. Starting with a “steady” long run pace we enter my height and weight and start measuring. Within a few minutes the software has created a fully segmented model of my form, with a huge range of measurements displayed for analysis and improvement.
Of immediate interest are the Joint Loading and Economy metrics. It was clear to see that at my easy run pace my joint loading (and risk of potential injury) was low, but the energy required for me to run at this pace was very high: meaning my efficiency was low.
We increase pace on the treadmill to my preferred 10K Race Pace, and start recording to measure how my gait has changed. My efficiency at speed is slightly better, but my joint loading in certain key areas is much higher. Mitchell is a postural rehabilitation specialist and it is clear he has a deep understanding of human biomechanics. Analysing the data, we begin to make a few tweaks to my running style, increasing my speed slightly, and reducing my foot contact time by raising my knees and increasing my cadence. Repeating the measuring process, we are able to track my progress displayed in the charts and graphs, which show a marked improvement in my efficiency.
We talk about incorporating high knee drills and hill running into my training to help normalise these changes in technique, and improve efficiency across the board.
We also move over to the mats to address some areas of inflexibility we have picked up on which are likely to cause injury and problems if I am training at this level. These are all areas highlighted by studying the changes in my joint loading as we ramp up to race pace. We run through a set of stretches, with Mitchell filming them on my phone so that I can check my form and refresh my memory in the future.
Is it worth it?
In short, yes. Be prepared to pay for experience and expertise. Prices start at £129 for a basic running technique analysis and rise to £325 if you need more in depth attention. As with many things in life, if you’re willing to learn and put in to an experience, you will take far more out of it. I left StrideUK with a greater understanding of my running, a set of drills to incorporate into my training to improve efficiency, an idea of my postural shortfalls, and a plan to put in place which should help me reduce the risks of injury as I get back out on the trails. A full report on my running technique analysis is emailed to me in the week after my session. In reality, you’re getting far more than a couple of hours of somebody’s time, and if it helps to prevent an injury in the future, it could be saving me a huge amount of money long term. All runners are different, and there are few rules which can truly apply to us all, so the personalised service and depth of help on offer makes this a truly useful experience. If you are chasing some extra performance, then the benefits of understanding specifically how your own body works is invaluable, especially if you are willing to put the data and advice to good use, and make physiological improvements. Knowledge is power. For me personally, it also gave me a psychological boost, to know I was preparing to the best of my abilities, leaving no stone unturned. Confidence is important in any sport, and anything you can do to bring it back or bolster it is worthwhile in my opinion.