by Meg Landymore, endurance runner and new Pod fan from Pasadena, Maryland
During my high school and college athletic years, no one really talked about running gait. If you suffered an overuse injury, an athletic trainer applied ice and heat to temporarily rebuild you.
The human body is made to move. I believe that more often than not, overuse injuries stem from not using the body correctly. I’m not a specialist. I am an athlete with some background in exercise science and a lot of experience being injured, sometimes for months at a time. What I can confidently talk about is how the MilestonePod changed my running life. After only two months, I was so impressed with how much the Pod helped me, that I wanted to share my experience. Here is my story.
Over the past nine years, I kept getting “stuck” when I tried to increase my weekly mileage. I’d start having knee stiffness, ankle and foot pain, and general muscle fatigue. No matter what I tried – different shoes, rolling, stretching, massaging – I would always hit the same wall in my training. Around this time, a friend of mine started posting about her MilestonePod. I was impressed and wanted in. I finally got a Pod this past February.
I knew my running gait could be better, but now I was finally going to have real feedback and raw data to show me how to make it better. No more guessing or overdoing it!
Once I became acquainted with my new Pod, I chose to hone in on rate of impact (ROI) first because I don’t like to feel limited by pain that I know I am causing myself. I knew that data was just a guideline. Improving my gait was going to take practice and focus.
With the Pod in use, I began to play around with my gait. I quickly noticed that when I tried to get my feet directly under my knee and land my body weight a bit more forward on my landing foot, I felt lighter. I felt bouncy and fast, as though I was fully preparing my body for the impact it would have with each step. I was making a conscious effort to “lighten” the load. My Pod data agreed that I was in fact, running lighter! I was working my calves and glutes harder and more evenly, so my quads weren’t burning out. I felt as though running about 10-15 seconds faster pace per mile was actually easier to do and maintain for longer periods of time.
I will admit after about a week of this I did develop some minor aches and pains from the changes I made so quickly, and naturally some smaller muscles in my calves felt like they were working for the first time in a while. I took some easier runs, changed up my shoes for a couple days and found I was actually recovering much faster. I capped off a 60 mile week with ease!
Into the woods. Out with a win.
So what happened when I took my Pod on the trail? On a 20-mile trail run, I did quite a bit of “light” work, but found that on every decline I was slamming into the ground pretty hard, fighting gravity. Post run, the data showed exactly what I felt: higher ROI. You can tell from the last chunk of the run that as my new muscles that I was using to decrease my ROI fatigued, the higher my ROI was.
All of this information carried me to my first race, the Seneca Greenway trail 50k. I was really looking forward to sharing race data, but I didn’t secure my Pod properly on my shoe and kicked it off soon after the start. I didn’t go after it because I didn’t need it to run. I’d trained for this, I knew what run efficiency felt like, even if I could only maintain it for some of the race, since I’m still learning.
My new mindset and muscle memory paid off in speed! I took 1st place female in 4:44, a 20+ minute PR on this course! How? Every time I started to feel my ROI beginning to climb I worked to get lighter. To feel lighter. I was able to keep running, not jogging, not slogging through the last miles but actually running. My muscles had the right timing, as if things were landing in the right way so the machine could just run smoothly (literally and metaphorically).
Why does it matter? Whether you’re running to beat your personal best or running to drop a couple pounds off the scale, the biggest issue is injury and general discomfort. What if you could see what you can change to decrease the likelihood of injury? What if you could feel good running? What if you could recover twice as quickly, run longer, train harder? That’s what it means to be able to see your gait through data. You can learn to feel how your body moves and help it move better.
Bringing play time to your stride
Finally, here is a fun way to work on lowering your ROI. Play pretend on your runs. Imagine you’re an elite runner, an Olympian. We’ve all had runs or at least moments when we feel THAT awesome, so use it. Spend a few strides of your run trying to feel like you’re flying. Pick up your cadence a bit, try to get your foot and weight to land under your knee with vertical orientation, and get your foot off the ground quicker (lower ground contact time). I am not talking about sprinting, but rather, “running light.” When you feel it, try to maintain it a little bit here and little bit there.
Your data will serve to inspire your efforts. Work this into each run and in no time you’ll start to feel like someone took some weight off so you can smoothly and gently FLY!
About the author:
Meg is an ultrarunner and member of the Maryland Army National Guard and the Guard’s National Marathon Team. She currently works as a Physician Assistant in areas of Psychiatric, Emergency and Occupational Medicine. She lives in Pasadena, Maryland, with her husband and young son, where she coaches running and teaches yoga on the side. With a win under her belt in 2017, her next goals are to run a distance PR at the Bull Run Run 50M (April 8), and a new CR at the Georgia Jewel 100M (September).
A note from Milestone Sports:
Want to read more about rate of impact? For strengthening and shoe tips to help reduce your rate of impact, and some science behind why it matters, check out Jackie’s Journey post : “Hit the Ground Lightly,” part of her Pod Metrics series.