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Could your comfortable pace also be your injury pace?

Ever wondered if your comfortable pace could be the route as to why you get injured? Because that's what we're discovering by using our new 3D force measuring systems. Whilst there is simply no denying that a 5 hour marathon runner is going to be out on their feet for 60 minutes longer than a 4 hour marathon runner. Running at a slower pace also can create greater joint loading forces as the body may not be running at it's optimum speed (Optimum by definition: most conducive to a favourable outcome; best.)

A case study

A chap, returning to running, mildly overweight (self confessed!) plagued with injuries including ITB (Runners knee) and lower back pain. Has secured a place in the London Marathon, but cannot presently break 12 miles without searing pain into his outer knees. His physio advised rest, foam roll and some glute strengthening, problem still persisted. His Garmin suggests that he is comfortably averaging a steady 10.50 mile pace (about 9 kph with an hopeful sub 5 completion time, with a few minutes spare too). He chose to visit us as none of the above were working for him. After a lengthy case history, we ran him at his comfortable 9 kph speed and noticed the following observations:

9 kph

  • Low Stride Frequency (78.6) Cadence (which is both feet - 157) which potentially could promote a longer Footstrike Position (An overstride / a greater step out in front of him)

  • Longer footstrike position (166mm in front of his centre line of mass) which potentially could promote him to land rear foot 'Strike Type' (favouring his heel as initial contact with the ground)

  • A rear foot 'Strike Type' potentially promoting greater Joint Loading Forces through both knees and hips as a result of a longer overstride and low cadence (Red light hips / Amber light knees)

A quick introduction to Joint loading

joint loading forces

Based on a simple 'Traffic light system', the 'Joint loading' apect of our software provides a very intuitive understanding of forces being placed through your hips and knees when running. This unique algorithm uses your height, weight, speed and body mass to create this measurement. Body mass is important to consider because a runner with excessive weight carried on their belly is subject to greater forces in comparison to a runner with body weight evenly distributed. Joint loading forces can change quite drasticaly based on the speed you are running at. In some cases the faster you run can prevent the way certain joints behave when speeded up (this answers why running a marathon slower could end up being more uncomfortable than running at your race pace). Please note that unlike a traffic light system, a Red light appearing on your knees or hips does not mean STOP immediately, NOR does it mean that you are likely to get injured if you continue. A red light simply suggests that greater forces are present in this area that could make it susceptible to injury, hence investigation as to why these forces are happening would be the best practise to prevent possible problems occurring later down the road.

The advantage of our 3D systems is that we can retest as many times as needed to try out a few ideas. Firstly we increased his speed from 9kph to 10kph. Mindful of the fact that an increase of speed creates a different pathway of motion (your body adapts to a new movement pattern, this time speed related), we were eager to see how his body chose to do it!

10 kph
  • Cadence increased from 78.6 to 86.3 (about 10%) The Green lines denote best / most efficient output. 

  • Footstrike Position reduced from 166mm to 144mm (an overstride reduction of 22mm) 

  • Despite still producing a rear foot strike type, his overstride reduction was sufficient to reduce the loading forces into his knees and hips (Amber light hips / Green light knees)

So athough, positive results from such a minor change of output, there still remains plenty of other areas that we could be fine tuning to improve his efficiency. Oddly enough, When returning him to 9kph BUT increase his cadence by the same 10%, his overstride also reduced sufficiently to improve hip and knee loading forces, but his overall running economy dropped (in comparison to running economy improving at 10kph).

To summarise:

Next year...

Never presume that running slow is easier on your body than running faster. Training your body to run just a little faster could be enough to reduce joint loading forces to allow your body to train for longer without the likeliness of the same injury occurring.  To know what's right for you, get your running form professionally assessed to understand how well gravity works for you!! (You may even find yourself completing a marathon faster than you expected as a result!!)
(Providing Graham sticks with his interval training plan, hill work and cadence drills, he could be on for completing closer to the 4 hour marathon time). 

Grahams testimonial / Google review

Dear Mitch, Stride UK. Thanks for your input and priceless training advice. Although early days since working with you, I managed to achieve my 12 miler without suffering any of my normal pain (ITB and lower back). I'm foam rolling daily as my legs certainly feel it after most runs, but fortunately my lungs seem to enjoy working a little harder too. I'll keep you posted with my training. London marathon could well be on! Couldn't have got here without you.


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