Written by Mark Cucuzzella, MD, FAAFP Professor, Family Medicine, West Virginia University Lt Col, US Air Force Reserves Chief Medical Consultant, Air Force Marathon
All movement, whether it is walking, running, dancing, or lifting, requires balance and symmetry to do it safely. What we measure in gait labs looks at things the eye cannot see. These include specific forces, timing of phases of gait which are fractions of seconds, and the gait differences from right to left. One of the simplest principles of staying healthy and injury free is maintaining balance in all planes, front to back and side to side.
We too often see runners sustain injuries which could be prevented by daily maintenance and balancing the body. The highest-level athletes are always balancing,and are especially tuned to this if there is any pain or discomfort in their bodies. They do not focus on treating symptoms; they figure out the cause and address it. Witness Olympic skier Bode Miller’s successful rehabbing from a career-ending knee injury and surgery. He spent countless hours working his body back to strength and balance, and as a result, just accomplished being the oldest alpine medalist in Olympics history. If not for a minor mistake and suboptimal skiing conditions that hampered his go-for-broke style, he might have won gold in downhill too.
At Two Rivers Treads, my specialty shoe store, we have had the privilege of doing initial testing of theTrueForm Runner motorless treadmill. We received the first production model to introduce to runners and walkers here in Shepherdstown, WV. It was developed by our friends at TRUEFORM.
Five years ago, company partner, Jeff Vernon could not walk from his car to the curb without extreme back pain. He also has a fused ankle. He began wearing Vibram FiveFingers as a casual shoe. His body immediately started to recover in this new, but natural, position. He then went about restoring his own health through relearning proper movement patterns and running form on the TrueForm Runner. As a big believer in functional movement, he wanted to get others interested, and that's when he introduced it to me at my shop.
Our own experience with the fun, useful machine at Two Rivers Treads has convinced me that this is a fitness tool that will thrive. I have watched adults and kids get on the treadmill at our store and have a blast running. It’s like riding a unicycle (but you won’t fall off), because your gait must be smooth and balanced. You will also find a natural, relaxed rhythm. All movement is a rhythm and dance requiring mostly unconscious neural pathways to create and sustain the motion. A motor-driven treadmill, on the other hand, doesn’t require balance and rhythm. Poor, old running habits don’t disappear on an electric treadmill; in fact, they are reinforced.
With local, functional movement specialists Paul Koczera and Laura Bergman, we brought the TrueForm Runner to The Running Event in Austin,TX, where we demo’d it with leading running researchers, major footwear companies, and Olympic athletes. We then took it to Reebok CrossFit One at Reebok Headquarters in Boston. It has been well-received wherever we brought it.
Balanced running is practically guaranteed on the TrueForm Runner. Here are several features of the TrueForm Runner which make it unique:
You set your own rhythm and pace–and not try to keep up with a motored belt
• You cannot overstride with a foot landing way out in front. You will stop moving.
• You engage the powerful muscles in the posterior chain (the glutes especially)
• The treadmill will never wear out because it’s solidly built with a stainless steel platform and 180 precision sealed bearings; a firm rubber pad fits over the steel bars.
• For those who like being off the grid, no electricity is needed.
In running, which is essentially a serious of hops, your power is right underneath you. The slightly curved platform of the TrueForm Runner ensures you find this sweet spot or else you are simply not moving smoothly and certainly not quickly. You need to try it to feel it, like finding the sweet spot of a golf club. You learn better with a precise blade and not swinging away with the oversized Big Bertha driver.
For more on the TrueForm Runner, watch this really fun, instructional two-minute video. One comment you will often hear from users is this: It teaches you how to run properly. Though you might not want to do what we did– and run on it in the back of a pickup truck as we drove around Shepherdstown.