USING VIDEO ANALYSIS TO IMPROVE RUN GAIT

 

The following blog post was written by Parker Spencer at USA Triathlon: 

“The only way to restore the gait you were built to have in running is through a feel pathway. Form either fits function through countless repetitions or we break down in this process. Unless we have perfect mechanics, are built like an elite runner and have been gradually building over countless years, the likelihood of breaking is a proven majority statistic! By using the TrueForm this need to break is obviated – if you are NOT executing correctly the TrueForm will not allow you to progress in ways that lead to injury. The TrueForm is every running drill in one functional package – a no-brainer. Every running variable improves with the use of TrueForm – improved stride rate, reduced ground contact time, to mention only two key aspects… Nothing to lose, improved mechanics and conditioning to gain, enough said!” – Bobby McGee, Triathlon Olympic Coach

Video analysis has long been used by coaches to evaluate athletes in all kinds of sports. For running coaches, it has been a key tool to help improve an athlete’s gait, which has significant performance advantages, as well as increased injury prevention.

A decade ago, the camera equipment and software needed to do this well was expensive and not always convenient. Today, video analysis has never been easier. There are many free apps you can download on your smartphone, and paired with your phone’s camera, you can capture your athlete in action.

In addition to the video analysis equipment, treadmills have also come a long way in recent years with significant improvements. Typically, when an athlete runs on a treadmill, they tend to have a different gait than you would see if they were running outside. One of the main reasons for this is on a typical treadmill, the belt moves with a motor based off the pace the runner sets. This decreases the power needed for propulsion and impacts form. TrueForm treadmills have revolutionized the game with a motorless design. The runner controls the speed of the belt by simply running at the same effort they would outside. As a result, the runner uses a more natural form and a coach can conduct a gait analysis on the runner with the form they actually run with normally.

These are some common questions we tend to get when we discuss video analysis:

Q: What is a video gait analysis?

A: A video gait analysis is simply using a video recorder to record an athlete’s technique. A coach will then review the video footage and critique the athlete’s form.  

Q: Why do a gait analysis?

A: Proper running form is essential to maximizing performance and reducing risk of injury. For example, if an athlete is overstriding it is common to develop a lower leg injury. When people watch an Olympian run, it is common for them to comment on how effortlessly they make running look. That is not just because the athlete is incredibly fit. It is also because they have such a good run gait. With practice, most people can improve their run gait and improve their performance. Efficiency is important in running. The more efficient you run, the more your potential is to run faster without injury.

Q: What is the proper way to do a gait analysis?

A: When doing a gait analysis, you want to record the runner running at different speeds. For example, after a proper warm up I will ask the runner to run at their typical easy pace. After recording that I will ask them to run at a 7 out of 10 effort which tends to be what we call “tempo pace.” Finally, I will have them run at their primary race pace. It is important to have the athletes run at these different paces to see how the athlete’s gait changes at the different speeds. If the athlete is training properly they will spend time at all three of these paces during training. You also want to do this in an environment that allows you to get the best sample of footage. Using a TrueForm treadmill is ideal; the athlete is stationary, and you can get consistent footage no matter the speed they are running.

Q: What should I be looking for?

A: There are many aspects to proper running but the main areas you should look at are foot plant, cadence, body lean, hip stability, and arm position. I wrote another article on this which you can review HERE.

Q: How often should video gait analysis be done?

A: It depends on how much work the athlete needs to do to improve their form. If the athlete needs to correct many running form issues, I recommend doing video analysis at least one time per week to monitor progress and keep what you are wanting the athlete to improve on relevant. For everyone else I recommend doing this at least once per month. The great thing about the convenience of performing a gain analysis is that it will not cost you anything aside from the smartphone cost. It is easy to do and there is really no limit to how many times you can perform a gait analysis; it is important, however, to not overdo it. You want your athletes thinking about proper form during every run, but you also want them to focus on the form becoming natural and the actual enjoyment of running. 

Adding gait analysis to the training you do with your athletes is now easier and as cost effective as ever. Start out practicing your gait analysis skills with your friends and family. Once you feel comfortable with doing these you should add them to your regular coaching practices. The more you do it the better you will be at it.