Run­ning Rewired: Rein­vent Your Run for Sta­bil­ity, Strength & Speed

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - NEWS - POW­ERS

Jay Dicharry

This might be bad news, but putting in a lot of run­ning time is no guar­an­tee that you are get­ting bet­ter at it. The brain and body work to­gether to find the eas­i­est ways to move, but to get the best run­ning gait, you may need to re­wire your brain’s mes­sages. Don’t worry if this sounds scary, there is no surgery re­quired.

Jay Dicharry is a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist and re­searcher who iden­ti­fies and plugs the unique holes in a per­son’s ath­letic per­for­mance po­ten­tial.

“While this book is no sub­sti­tute for a oneon-one run­ning gait lab ex­am­i­na­tion,” he ex­plains, “there is a pat­tern to the prob­lems that plague run­ners.”

In re­cent years, re­search has caused run­ning records to fall faster than rain says Dicharry. “And if you har­ness this knowl­edge and change your train­ing, ul­ti­mately your run­ning times can change.” His prac­tice of rewiring is based on the brain’s plas­tic­ity, or its ca­pac­ity to adapt, in ways that sig­nif­i­cantly change long-es­tab­lished pat­terns.

Dicharry has first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence with us­ing the brain’s plas­tic­ity to re-learn fun­da­men­tal and ba­sic move­ments. After a se­vere head in­jury that put him in a coma, he could not walk in a straight line. His gait was no longer au­to­matic and re­flex­ive, and it took a lot of ac­tive think­ing and prac­tice to get him back to nor­mal walk­ing.

The acts of walk­ing and run­ning be­come largely sub­con­scious once you get the hang of it. After that, life­style fac­tors can bring about gait changes that again be­come sub­con­scious, but might be detri­men­tal. Even with sim­ple move­ments, there are many com­po­nents that need to stay in sync to sup­port and fa­cil­i­tate each part’s role.

Dicharry de­scribes fix­ing the gait of Wes, whose right il­i­otib­ial band was very painful dur­ing run­ning. A foam roller and mas­sage didn’t help. Some­one no­ticed his right knee was col­laps­ing in­ward, but cor­rect­ing that cre­ated more pain. It turned out the real prob­lem was that his hip was col­laps­ing in­ward due to un­plugged hip mus­cles.

“To plug the mus­cle back in, we need to teach it to work and co­or­di­nate it with the rest of the body,” ex­plains Dicharry. A lot of sit­ting and a stiff right an­kle joint fur­ther in­hib­ited Wes’s tight hips and pre­vented a good push-off, lead­ing to his legs swing­ing far­ther in front and less be­hind. This over­worked his knee mus­cles which then didn’t steer straight.

To get his ex­ter­nal ro­ta­tors – re­spon­si­ble for steer­ing the hips – plugged in again, Wes learned how to feel and en­gage his hip mus­cles through a very iso­lated movement. “Ini­tially,” says Dicharry, “he couldn’t carry a con­ver­sa­tion while do­ing it – while not hard phys­i­cally, he found it tremen­dously dif­fi­cult men­tally.”

Two weeks of ex­er­cises led to Wes’s hips mov­ing more smoothly, which helped him to de­velop a strongly planted foot. It still took ex­tra thought, but after a month into prac­tis­ing the new move­ments, it was al­most au­to­matic, and Wes was ex­tend­ing his hips cor­rectly and the pain was com­pletely gone.

Dicharry pro­vides am­ple pho­to­graphs and il­lus­tra­tions for drills, work­outs and tests to as­sess where gait cor­rec­tions are needed. He cau­tions that there is con­sid­er­able vari­abil­ity be­tween peo­ple and cue­ing align­ment re­quires un­der­stand­ing the idio­syn­cra­sies of each in­di­vid­ual: “Know­ing what proper align­ment looks like for you is re­ally im­por­tant.”—he­len

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