I had my third session recently with Dr Thomas Hughes from Tri-Mechanics in Leeds.
I discovered Tom’s services whilst searching for someone in the area that could assess my running ‘technique’ and perhaps sort out why I was having issues with my lower back and knees.
Tri-mechanics aim to improve running using studio based running analysis combined with their experience on a wide range of topics associated with this including nutrition.
I had the idea after reading Vassos Alexander’s book ‘Don’t Stop Me Now: 26.2 Tales of a Runner’s Obsession. He saw a ‘running doctor’ who assessed his running and subsequently made improvements.
I could have taken the option to get my gait analysed free of charge at a local running store. However all they look at is your feet and try to correct any issues with different shoe types, especially if they are sponsored by a certain shoe manufacturer. Meanwhile I wanted to know why my feet / legs / knees / hips were doing what they were doing.
Tom’s analysis consisted of my running on a treadmill whilst he filmed me from different angles, then reviewing it in slow motion to see where the problem lies.
After a warm up and ten minutes of running at my ‘usual’ pace, Tom determined that I had weak hip flexors. Now ‘weak hip flexors’ may be the topic of the moment in running circles and an easy option to blame, however the video playback was clear to see. As much as I though my running style was okay and felt good, it was clear that my hip dropped allowing my knee to bend inwards and causing my arm to swing out to help me balance. The feet were also landing in front of my body and I was stooping a little bit.
The result is that I have been suffering with lower back pain, runner’s knee, sore ITB as well as other symptoms.
Tom gave me some exercises to do before running and afterwards to fire up my hip flexors and get them working correctly. He also supplied a massage ball and a technique to roll my glutes to help fire up the hip flexors.
A month later I was back for my second session. After warming up I was back on the treadmill and Tom filmed me again from all angles.
Improvements were evident this time. My hip was not dropping as much and the balancing arm was not as exaggerated. I can honestly say I felt better too and my running had improved with my pace improving!
Tom gave me some more exercises to do which would take it up a notch.
Right…that brings you up to speed and up to date. So the most recent session with Tom was to look at making further improvements.
The theme was to make some of the exercises part of daily life rather than something to do before running.
I wondered where things were going when he asked me about daily habits such as when and how I brush my teeth and how many times I wash up (had my girlfriend been complaining?) as well as the layout of my house!
However all was eventually revealed as he suggested various exercises such as lunges whilst brushing my teeth (using the timer of my electric toothbrush to measure time) and different ways to ascend the stairs to work out my glutes and hip flexors (which are tough!)
I have already started doing this and I imagine it will become habit eventually!
Meanwhile my running has improved again. Not having knee pain and lower back pain has allowed me to step up the training and include more hill and speed sessions. Tom’s input has clearly helped here.
The next steps are to build up my strength as I train for my two main races this year, the Hardmoors 55 and the Lakeland 50. I will also be interested to hear more of Tom’s advice relating to nutrition.
Whilst brushing teeth (!): 30 seconds in lunge position (knee just above the floor) followed by 30 seconds with knee just above the floor and pulse slowly. Repeat on opposite leg.
Whenever ascending the stairs: either hip extensions (step forwards to extend hip (2 – 3 stairs) followed by stepping forward, using your hips / glutes etc. to drive you up and through, stabilising as required on the bannister or:
Hopping from one step to the next (either single hop or double hop!) change legs either halfway, or on next ascension.
See the Tri-mechanics website for further information and advice: https://www.trimechanics.co.uk/about/