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Carolyn’s Workout Diary: Week 20

On week 20 of her fitness challenge MiNDFOOD associate editor Carolyn Enting is standing tall, well almost.

Carolyn’s Workout Diary: Week 20

When I first began running back in January apparently I was “running in a bucket”.

My form was far from athlete status and more duck-like – tipped forward, bum out, “lurching” and lacking momentum so you can imagine my delight when Vaughan Craddock (pictured) of professional sports rehab and performance clinic Sports Lab declared with glee that I’m finally running ‘upright’.

I wasn’t completely sure what running in a bucket meant but as analogies go there is not much room to move in a bucket and my running style back then had the same restricting effect.

To demonstrate how far I had come Vaughan got me to do two exercises.

First, to tilt my pelvis forward, “stick my bum out like Donald Duck” and arch my back. Then while holding that position I had lift my thigh as high as I could and feel how the movement was blocked when I reached a certain point.

“Now roll your pelvis the other way,” instructed Vaughan. “Stay tall but roll your bottom under, now lift that thigh as high as you can.”

This time I could lift it much higher and the movement was freer. But why?

“Because when you tilt your pelvis forward the socket that the femur (thigh bone) sits in shifts position and there is a ridge of bone is now obstructing the femur from coming up so that’s why people run in the bucket because the pelvis tilts forward too far and the thigh can’t physically come up so they bring their trunk down and now they are stuck running down here,” says Vaughan who has assumed the “running in a bucket” position.

Where people often also go wrong (and end up in the bucket) is when they over stride by focusing on trying to get a longer stride in front.

It is about having a stride that is representative at the front and the back that’s together appropriate, says Vaughan. And there is no set rule. It’s about your anthropology. Your body structure will determine what the right ratio is.

Right now we’re examining a video of me running on the treadmill and comparing it to a similar video recorded six months earlier when I began this fitness challenge.

Over that time with the help of Sports Lab and Gaz Brown of GetRunning I’ve worked on my strength and mobility, and this latter video is proof that it’s working.

“It’s a result of all the hard work you have been doing in mobility – foam rolling and stretching (yoga) – because you are elongating the tissue so you that physically don’t have an impairment so you can stand tall,” Vaughan says. “And all the strength training you have been doing has allowed you to then have the strength to stay there.”

The fact that I’ve “elongated” means I now have a stable base that’s upright which means my limbs can move around in an efficient pattern.

“This is really important. This is what you have been aiming towards, to elongate your body so that you can start to use your limbs to their full capacity,” he says.

Much of it comes down to physics, force x distance. Vaughan uses a door handle as an example. Push the end of the handle (lever) at the furthest distance from where it pivots and it moves easily. Push it near the pivot point and you can hardly move it.

It’s the same with running. If you are leaning forward your knees will be flexed, you’re hitched at the hips and you guessed it “running in the bucket”. Your limbs become short levers, making it hard work to move forward and gain ground.

Standing tall helps your limbs become long levers which can produce a lot of force with minimal effort because they are not having to fight against any resistance which is why being lengthened and tall when you are running is ideal.

“It’s about having control of the pelvis and the sternum so the limb can move cyclically around it in the correct pattern,” Vaughan says.

Of course there are things to work on. Even though I’m running taller than I was, I’m still tilting the pelvis forward about 20 – 22 degrees which makes it harder for the glutes to fire. The good news is I’m using my glutes more than ever before but I could use them more.

The pelvis will never be level at take off because forward tilt is needed to generate power, but excessive forward tilt impairs power. You need to find that invisible power band, and this time Vaughan uses the analogy of riding a motorbike.

“Have you ever felt that power band when revving a motorbike and then you hit that sweet spot and the bike just takes off? The power band is the magic feeling on the bike and there is a zone of ideal pelvic tilt somewhere in-between about 12 and 18 degrees so we’re not too far off it. You used to be more 25 or 26. Now it doesn’t sound like much but two or three degrees is a big improvement.”

My homework when running this week is to not worry about anything else other than just feeling light through the hips.
I have to imagine I have a string that goes down through my head and all the way down to my pelvis where is an inflated balloon that is stuck there and someone is pulling on the string and it’s lifting the pelvis.

“The reason I use that analogy is that you actually want to lift from the pelvis, not from your sternum or your head,” he says.

I give it a go and automatically my stomach muscles kick in.

“Perfect that is what you want to do. If you have a nice skeletal alignment it means that all the muscles are equal and opposite to one another, therefore they can be effective. If you have this in running then your legs will just work much more fluidly. That’s when running becomes easy.”

I agree that running feels heaps easier than before.

“What you are aspiring to is those magic runs when you go out and just feel like you can run all day,” Vaughan says. “It’s because your body is not fighting itself. It’s only fighting itself if you’re mechanically in position where your muscles are opposing each other trying to achieve their function.

“If you are tall and the limbs are moving cyclically around the body, there is very little resistance, therefore it just feels great. So that’s why people say run tall, get your hips up.”

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