Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Wayward Left Ankle

When I was video taped for the first time 3 years ago (in 14 oz. motion control Mizuno's), I had a mid-foot strike (I'm sure I had some heel strikes also) but my left ankle would do this thing there where it would slightly whip out to the left then align straight milliseconds before landing so the PT dismissed it because the actual landing was fine. I never thought about it again as I attributed it to all the basketball injuries to my left ankle and I figured the left ankle was pretty weak so it would flare out slightly as a result and then I could bring it back in prior to landing. As a side note, if you read the article is Runner's World about Meb (he is on the cover; a few months ago) he had something similar as they described one of his ankles as a "wayward" ankle and they worked on strengthening the entire side of his body to control and align the ankle for a more solid and straight foot plant (of course, Meb is a massive heel striker so there may be other issues with him as he is injured more often than he is healthy).

I had to work (and continue of course) on my entire left side of the body starting with my arms. My coach said I ran stiff for a long time and it was evident in my upper body and then I figured out how to relax and she said all the stiffness in my upper body is now completely gone. I did this by taking a note from Gordon Pirie and I forgot I had arms. I completely ignored my arms, relaxed and completely focused on my feet . . . everything about my feet . . . all brain waves went to my feet from foot lift to strike. I needed to communicate with my feet much better and that worked and I still do not think much about my upper body other than to relax which actually resulted in my arms moving a big higher and more compact (more like the East Africans as opposed to say Ryan Hall as my arms were much lower as with Ryan . . . so that was a major change in my arm placement).

Then, per the direction from my coach, I started focusing 100-150 meters ahead and running to that point then when I get within 50 meters I set another mark 100-150 meters ahead. As I started to do this, I think it exposed my defect because I started to run straight to the point I was focusing on and then it happened . . . the "ah ha" moment because as I was running toward a point my shoulders, hips and foot aligned better. Then, instead of focusing on my foot plant, I imagined a straight line that I needed to land on with each foot plant and then I just focusing on moving forward and everything started to feel better. This also forced me to concentrate on the shorter stride which felt great. My thought is the longer I'm in the air, the more chances there is for me to "mess up," and land incorrectly and lose control of my form.

As Gordon Pirie said, "don't let your body decide when the foot should land as you must force that foot down quickly . . . get the foot on the ground as quickly as possible . . . shorten the stride and quicken up." As I speed up I focus even more on the shorter stride (not a choppy stride) but a smooth easy shorter stride that feels very natural (I make sure to not fight my body but, at the same time, I won't let my body take huge strides either).

I need a video to confirm but I'm pretty confident the result is that I don't land on the severe outer edge of my left foot anymore. I still land on the outside and roll in but not as severe. That slight whipping action had to put stress on my ankle and specifically the plantar muscle which had to work over-time to re-align my ankle prior to landing.


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