Last Tuesday night I went to the UCSF RunSafe program held in the Mission Creek campus here in SF. I highly recommend this clinic to anyone who runs on a regular basis.
If you go to the page linked to above, you’ll see the details. Briefly, your $175 admission fee gets you:
- Video gait analysis – front and side-view
- Strength and flexibility assessment
- Nutritional analysis and coaching
- Foot dynamics and footwear assessment
At each station, a different specialist evaluates your performance. During the debriefing, everyone gathers around the screen and gets to see your insane running form…
In the end, you also get a free shirt! Awesome!
They email you a custom PDF with recommendations for training, stretching, footwear, and diet. They also snail-mail you a hard copy of the recommendations, and a DVD with your video files on it.
What I Loved, and What Could Be Improved
I loved the way the clinic was set up. You spend about 15 minutes at each station, doing different things with the specialist there, then rotate to the next one. The recommendations are very specific, and I think, will help a lot. It is incredibly helpful to see yourself run on camera. If you’ve never done that before, this will be a huge eye-opener. Seeing the video of other runners also helps to understand the context for the recommendations everyone is receiving – why you were told to stretch your calves more and someone else was not.
I think it would be helpful for the team to provide a little “basic biomechanics” for people who might not have a background in running science. I’ve studied this a lot, so I had a pretty good idea what was wrong with me before I went in.
Also, I wore my Vibrams, which the team hadn’t analyzed yet. They had a lot of great comments about running in the Vibrams – don’t run on pavement with them, make sure your structure/form/tissue-quality is as perfect as it can be before running in them, and ramp up very slowly to longer distances using the Vibrams.
When it came to analyzing my technique, they were a little stumped, because the form is so different. I was a little disappointed by this, because mechanics are mechanics. If you’re looking for “textbook running form” you aren’t really paying attention to mechanics.
I harp on this a little only because more and more people are using the Vibram’s. So I think the team at UCSF should brush up on that technique.
And, though they video you from back and side views, and have a Vicon setup in the room, there is no “true” kinetic/kinematic analysis. They do not create joints on your image and analyze impact forces, etc. (I’m considering doing this on my own with the biomechanics software I have). Seems like an easy enough thing to do, and would add good quantitative detail to the analysis.
So is it worth $175?
I’m going to be putting a lot of miles in over the course of the next eight months. For me, it was definitely worthwhile. I got a lot of great recommendations, and have already started putting them to use.
If you can afford it, and you run enough to justify it (even 3-5 miles/wk is enough to warrant it, in my book), do it.
Many universities, PT clinics, hospitals, and a few personal training facilities will offer this type of analysis. Take advantage of it!
What if I can’t afford it?
If you can’t afford it, take cues from the program. Get access to a video camera of any sort, and take video of yourself from behind and from a side view.
What you’re looking for is gross deviation in your movement. If you’re bobbing way up and down, you’re inefficient, and your bones/muscles are taking a lot of strain. If one hip is higher than the other, you probably want to fix that. If one leg turns out and the other goes straight, want to fix that too.
A fantastic way to analyze your running form was revealed to me by Mick Dodge, the Barefoot Sensei. Take your video image and flip it upside down. It should still look smooth, fluid, and symmetrical. If you’re bouncing all over the place, lurching from side to side, or twisting in your gait, seek help!
If you have any other specific questions about gait analysis, feel free to ask!