The Benefits of Gait Analysis

May 16, 2015

Gait analysis is another tool used to gain insight into one’s movement patterns specific to walking or running.  The benefits of gait analysis is that it can be very helpful in identifying overactive/underactive muscles, potential injuries, and inefficiencies.  As one of our clients shares below, it can also bring the joy back into your running! Have you hit a plateau? Are you just getting started? Here are a few specific ways a gait analysis by Personal Trainer Bob Nelson, can impact your running and help your body as a whole

  1. Pelvic instability/hip drop: Just like a house with a faulty foundation, our gait is influenced by our core. If we have a weak or unstable core including our hips, it influences our movement patterns, leading to imbalance and injury.  Our bodies need something on which to stabilize during foot strike.  For every step we take, gravity and momentum force our bodies down.  The ground then exerts an equal and opposite force through our body.  This is called ground reaction force.  While we walk, the ground reaction force is between 1 to 1.5 times our body weight.  While running that increases 2 to 5 times our body weight.  That’s per leg!  That’s why we do so many single leg squats at PTF!  We need to be able to manage those forces placed on the body.  The hips and core are key.  If we aren’t stable in those regions then other muscles take over affecting other joints including the knees, feet, even the neck and shoulders.  Some common issues and injuries from hip instability/imbalance include: excessive pronation in the feet, ACL tears, IT Band Syndrome (Runner’s knee), Patellofemoral Syndrome, Patellar Tendinopathy (Jumper’s knee), Plantar fasciitis. A great tool to bring your hips to neutral is Trainer John Lindala’s book Hip Neutral. We use it A LOT at Porltand TEAM Fitness.
  2. Head position: If your head is too far forward it can cause neck, disc, and low back problems. This is all too common for those of us that spend a lot of time on the computer, driving, or have high levels of emotional or physical stress. A recent study found that for every 1 inch of forward head movement beyond neutral, the average 12 pound head “gains” 10 pounds.  How many inches forward are our heads while texting?   Yikes!  On your next walk or run, would you rather carry a 12 pound head or a 20, 30, 40 pounder?  No thanks! With gait analysis you can see this on video and learn a simple exercises to correct it.
  3. Over striding: This is a common pattern in runners and can lead to overuse and injury. Most experts agree that the part of your foot on which you land (heel strike, mid or forefoot) is not as important as where you land in relation to your center of mass (COM). Many people land too far beyond their COM.  This causes the feet and knees to bear most of the ground reaction forces with less support from the core. In gait analysis you will learn proper stride length and have the watchful eye of a coach to help give you tips and feedback as you make changes.
  4. Arm position: The arms are an important part of gait. Try walking or running without swinging your arms.  It’s not easy and it feels weird.  They help us rotate our torso and pelvis and help with momentum.  There is a fine line with arm movement however.  More may not be better, and too little is no good either.  The arms should be in a relaxed position swinging forward and pointing the elbows back.  Try to keep your hands above your hips at their lowest point and don’t cross over the midline of your body in front.  Think of pointing your elbows straight back and soft fists “punching” forward.  Improper arm position can lead to neck, shoulder, knee and foot pain.
  5. Excessive pronation: Pronation is a normal part of the gait cycle and is part of how we absorb ground forces. Excessive pronation can cause problems such as: shin splints, plantar fasciitis, or Achilles tendonitis.  If you’ve had a history of ankle sprains this can also lead to these conditions.  Releasing those muscles that are overactive and strengthening those underactive muscles can help.  Once again the hips and core play a role in pronation.  Stable hips can help minimize overpronation.
  6. Anterior pelvic tilt: This is identified when we see an excessive curve in the low back. If it is difficult to keep your low back in a neutral position when doing a wall squat, you may have anterior tilt compensation. This can be caused by excessive tightness in the hip flexors (front of the hip), leading to low back pain, hamstring strains or sacroiliac sprains (where your pelvis meets your sacrum/ SI joint).  This condition also does not allow for a full range of extension through the hips which is important for efficient form and function. When our body does not have full range of motion at ANY joint, other muscles have to work harder to propel us through space. Figuring out where your muscles are long and taught and which ones are short and tight is essential to proper running form and injury prevention.

What people are saying about Portland TEAM Fitness Personal Trainer Bob Nelson:

Bob Nelson has this wonderful mix of skills and knowledge that make him a total pleasure to work with as a coach: excellent listener, deep knowledge of the body, holistic understanding of runners’ mind-body connection, empathy and observation. Also, he is a running geek who truly seems to enjoy both the technical and human sides of training and coaching. In a remarkably short time working together, Bob addressed ways I could smooth out my form, allowed me to consider some different ways to train, and identified exactly how to strengthen and where. Working with him gave me back the joy of running that I had lost. I can’t wait to work with him again!”  Santha Cassell

When you specifically meet with Bob Nelson for a gait analysis, the first hour is an assessment of your body AND your gait, and when you meet again you get the evaluation and exercises to do to improve the findings. With Hood To Coast only about 3 months away NOW is the perfect time to book a gait analysis session and tidy up your running, as well as implement some core and total body cross training routines at Portland TEAM Fitness to keep you injury free during Hood To Coast. Interested in signing up for a gait analysis? Contact Bob Nelson at bob@portlandteamfitness.com or 503.502.6708.