This may be the last blog post you read from us …  for 2011. It may be our most important blog post as well. 

Can Running, Can Movement, Make us better Humans ?

   It has been an amazing year for both of us here at The Gait Guys. Through this year, we have bridged many chasms, made many new friends, and learned much on our own end in our relentless research and readings. We appreciate every one of you who has followed us, and we thank you for your friendship.

Today, we would like you all to watch this video and then more importantly read what we have paraphrased below. As we find ourselves here at the end of another year, it is normal to look back and see our path to growth but to look forward to plan for ways to further develop our growth.  Many of you who read our blog are runners, but many of you are also extensions of running. What we mean by that is many of you are coaches or trainers who develop those who run in one way or another in various sports, but many of you are also in the medical field helping those to run and move to get out of pain or improve performance.  And still yet we have discovered that some of you are in the fields of bodywork such as yoga, pilates, dance and movement therapies.  It is perhaps these fields that we at The Gait Guys are least experienced at (but are learning) and like many others we find ourselves drawn to that which we are unaware and wish to know more in the hope that it will expand and improve that which we do regularly.  For many of you that is also likely the case.  For example, since a number of you are runners we would bet to say that you have taken up yoga or pilates or cross training to improve your running and to reduce or manage injuries or limitations in your body. But why stop there ? So, here today, we will try to slowly bring you full circle into other fields of advanced movement. As you can see in this modern dance video above the grace, skill, endurance, strength, flexibility and awareness are amazing and beautiful.  Wouldn’t you like to see them in a sporting event ? Wouldn’t you like to see them run ? Aren’t you at least curious ? Their movements are so effortless. Are yours in your chosen sport ? How would they be at soccer? How would they be at gymnastics ? Martial arts ? Do you know that some of the greatest martial artists were first dancers ? Did you know that Bruce Lee was the Cha Cha Dance Champion of Hong Kong ? He is only one of many. Dance, martial arts, gymnastics …  all some of the most complex body movements that exist. And none of them simple, taking years to master, but most of which none of us can do. In 2012 we will continue to expand your horizons of these advanced movement practices as our horizons expand. From 3 years of personal study, we already have been experimenting with some of the advanced foot and body movements of dance, incorporating many aspects into our treatment and exercise regimens for our patients, runners and multi-sport athletes. Using things like the latin dance (primarily rumba and salsa) movements to strengthen the hips, core and feet and borrowing from the Cha Cha to improve foot side and cross over step speed and accuracy in some of our NCAA basketball and European soccer players. Even using some of the smooth footwork in the waltz and foxtrot to increase awareness of rear, mid and forefoot strike patterns and the development of rigid and mobile foot positions in our speed athletes.  Why not use this knowledge?  Many of our athletes do not even know their exercises homework are from basic dance principles, until we tell them at the end of a session.  There is a reason why some of the best athletes in the NBA, NFL and other sports have turned to almost secret study of dance and martial arts because there is huge value in it.  Look at any gymnast, martial artist or dancer. Look at their body, their posture, their grace.  It is as if their bodies know something that ours do not.  And so, The Gait Guys will dive even deeper into these professions to learn principles and bring them back to you. After all, everything we do is about movement. Movement is after all what keeps the brain alive. 

Below are excerpts from a great article from Kimerer Lamothe, PhD. She wrote a wonderful article in Psychology Today (link is at the top) on her experience with McDougall’s book “Born to Run” and how she translated it into something more.  Below you will find some exerpts from her work. But at some point, take the time to read the whole article.  But do not cut yourself short now, you only have a little more reading below, take the next 2 minutes, it might change your life, or at least your next run.

We will leave you hear now for 2011 with our gratitude for this great growing brethren and community that is unfolding at The Gait Guys. We have great plans for 2012 so stay with us, grow with us, and continue to learn and improve your own body and those that you work with.  Again, read Kimerer’s excerpts below, for now, and watch the amazing body demonstrations in the video above. It will be worth it.


Can Running Make us Better Humans ?….. excerpts from the artcle by Kimerer LaMothe.

The Tarahumara are not only Running People, they are also Dancing People. Like other people who practice endurance running, such as the Kalahari Kung, dancing occupies a central place in Tarahumara culture. Or at least, it has. The Tarahumara dance to pray, to celebrate life passages, to mark seasonal and religious events. They dance outside where Father God and Mother Moon can see, in patterns consisting of steps and shuffles, taps and hops, performed in a line or a circle with others. And they dance the night before a long running race, while the native corn beer, or tesguino flows.

While McDougall notes the irony of “partying” the night before a race, he doesn’t ask the question: might the dancing actually serve the running? Might it be that the Tarahumara dance in order to run—to ensure the success of their run—for themselves and for the community?

At the very least, the fact that the Tarahumara dance when and how they do is evidence that they live in a world where bodily movement matters. They believe that how they move their bodies matters to who they are and to how life happens. They have survived as a people by adapting their traditional method of endurance hunting (running animals to exhaustion) to the challenges of fleeing Spanish invaders, accessing inaccessible wilderness, and staying in touch with one another while scattered throughout its canyons. As McDougall notes, they have kept alive an ancient genetic human heritage: to love running is to love life, for running enables life.

Yet McDougall is also clear: even the Tarahumara are not born knowing how to run. Like all humans, they must learn. Even though human bodies are designed to flourish when subject to the stresses of long distance loping, we still need to learn how to coordinate our limbs to allow that growth to happen. We must learn to run with head up, carriage straight, and toes reaching for the ground. We must land softly and roll inwardly, before snapping our heels behind us. We must learn to glide—easy, light, smooth—uphill and down, breathing through it all. How do we learn?

How do we learn to run? We learn by paying attention to other people, and taking note of the movements they are making. We learn by cultivating a sensory awareness of our own movements, noting the pain and pleasure they produce, and finding ways to adjust. We learn by creating and becoming patterns of movement that release our energy boldly and efficiently across space. We learn, in a word, by dancing.

While dancing, people open up their sensory selves and play with movement possibilities. The rhythm marks a time and space of exploration. Moving with another heightens the energy available for it. Learning and repeating sequences of steps exercises a human’s most fundamental creativity, operating at a sensory level, that enables us to learn to make any movement in any realm of endeavor with precision and grace. Even the movements of love. Dancing, people affirm for themselves and with each other that movement matters.

In this sense, dancing before the night of a running race makes perfect sense. Moving in time with one another, stepping and stretching in proximity to one another, the Tarahumara would affirm what is true for them: they learn from one another how to run.  They learn to run for one another. They run with one another. And when they race, they give each other the chance to learn how to be the best that they each can be, for the good of all.

It may be that the dancing is what gives the running its meaning, and makes it matter.

Yet the link with dance suggests another response as well. In order for running to emerge in human practice as something we are born to do, we need a culture that values movement—that is, we need a general appreciation that and how the bodily movements we make matter. It is an appreciation that our modern western culture lacks. 

Those of us raised in the modern west grow up in human-built worlds. We wake up in static boxes, packed with still, stale air, largely impervious to wind and rain and light. We pride ourselves at being able to sit while others move food, fuel, clothing, and other goods for us. We train ourselves not to move, not to notice movement, and not to want to move. We are so good at recreating the movement patterns we perceive that we grow as stationary as the walls around us (or take drugs to help us).

Yet we are desperate for movement, and seek to calm our agitated senses by turning on the TV, checking email, or twisting the radio dial to get movement in a frame, on demand. It isn’t enough. Without the sensory stimulation provided by the experiences of moving with other people in the infinite motility of the natural world, we lose touch with the movement of our own bodily selves. We forget that we are born to dance and run and run and dance.

The movements that we make make us. We feel the results. Riddled with injury and illness, paralyzed by fears, and dizzy with exhaustion, our bodily selves call us to remember that where, how, and with whom we move matters. We need to remember that how we move our bodies matters to the thoughts we think, the feelings we feel, the futures we can imagine, and the relationships we can create with ourselves, one another, and the earth.

Without this consciousness, we won’t be able to appreciate what the Tarahumara know: that the dancing and the running go hand in hand as mutually enabling expressions of a worldview in which movement matters.

Thanks for a great article Kimerer. (entire article here)

Wishing a Happy New Year to you all, from our hearts……. Shawn and Ivo

The Gait Guys

Proof that the contralateral limbs are programmed. Wait, are you guys showing dog gait video today ? yup, and for good reason.

This is how good our eyes are trained at gait stuff.  How good are yours ? Can you pick out what we saw immediately when watching this clip ? It is something really cool, perhaps proof that contralateral limbs, upper and lower,  are programmed and automatic. Even in dogs apparently. Did you see it ?  You may have to have to watch the video several times.

The dog initially is striking with the left forelimb while pairing that with right hindlimb just after (remember, this is running gait, not walking) . Kind of like how in human gait the left arm swing is in sync with the right leg swing (both in either flexion or extension, at the same time). We believe the central pattern generator for gait occurs in an area of the spinal cord at the junction of the the thoracic and lumbar spines (just like in the large sauropod dinosaurs!) click here for more info

But what is really cool is that there is a sudden change at 0:23sec.  The dog changes midstride to strike first with the right forelimb and immediately alters the hind limb to strike first with the left. Can you see it ? Look again. Isn’t the nervous system amazing!

Just as in humans the pattern change seems to be immediate and subconscious.  The rhythm and sync is predictable. It appears that even in animals the arm swing topics of weeks ago on in-phase and anti-phase of the shoulder and pelvic girdles hold true.

Did you see it immediately ? It may take you time to train your eyes like ours, but if you watch enough videos perhaps you too will have gait observation superpowers. 

Limb swing, even in animals, offer information to learn from and extrapolate to humans. Bipeds, quadrupeds….we don’t discriminate.

Shawn and Ivo……..gait experts……. on many levels.

Not another Cross over runner ! Yup, and some new pearls on the topic.

Watch this video (and we will post her second video shot from the side in a separate blog post) so you can see some of the components we will talk about today.

Quite often in the Cross over gait the runner has great difficulty getting into the glutes (max and medius) effectively.

In this video today from Runblogger, we see yet another runner who is lacking skill and strength in the appropriate muscles and patterns to run efficiently.

  1. In this video it is clear that she has the classic Cross-Over stride flaw. This video is nice because there is a line present to support our cause, the feet at basically falling on a line instead of below the hips. We see the typical far lateral foot strike in this runner that is classic for Crossing over.  This more lateral strike, even though it is a nice midfoot strike (see the side video shot in the other video of her we post), causes pronation to occur quicker and longer than normal and can create an abductory twist when the heel departs from the ground. However, we do not see the abductory twist like we saw in the Lauren Fleshman videos.  Why not ? because this runner has the foot progression angle at zero, perhaps negative 5 degrees (what we are saying is that she is toe’d-in). This is appears to be from her having mild internal tibial torsion. And a negative foot progression angle will help hold the arch through pronation and in this case is protecting from the abductory twist of the foot at heel rise. There is most likely a forefoot varus here as well (note the inversion at strike). Most likely it is functional; she appears to have inadequate motion in the rear and midfoot, so the pronation must occur somewhere and we see it here in the forefoot.

 Pretty cool to see how a subtle change in one’s anatomy can play out differently.  Go back and watch the Fleshman video blog of weeks ago and watch for the abductory twist of the feet.

2. In this runner, what we really wanted to discuss however is the poor motor control of the gluteus medius and maximus (maximus will be in #3). We can clearly see in this video that during all phases of stance, the pelvis is dipping on the contralateral side. This downward drop is creating a greater gluteus medius lever arm and thus greater demand on the gluteus medius, and in this case a failed attempt (if the opposite hip were hiked, the lever arm would be reduced and put lesser demand on the gluteus medius, less fatigue factor). New to this concept ? Click here.Think now about the reciprocal pairing with the adductors and you could understand why her adductors are probably shortened as well; the adductor magnus especially, as it has a secondary motion of external rotation, and it is probably being substituted here to help decelerate the internal spin of the lower extremity

As the longer lever pairs with the body weight factor, there is a vertical descent of the body and this must be made up by eccentric control of the gluteus maximus (the option of optimal choice) or it is dumped into the quadriceps and they are expected to cope with the body mass descent by slowing knee flexion.  She appears to be opting for the later, not a good choice.

3. Now switch over to the frontal plane (side) shot of this runner in the other blog post. Can you clearly see that the quadriceps are being asked to control the decent? Look at the vertical oscillations of her body. Look at the amount of knee flexion occuring at impact.  It is clear that the gluteus maximus is not dampening this drop and this can be seen by the amount of hip flexion noted here. We always think of the glutes as extensors but in gait they are huge dampeners of the rate and degree of hip flexion.

This is very inefficient running.  She could be much more effective and faster if she works on these issues.  If she can just pair improved gluteus medius to control the frontal plane pelvis drop, and improve the maximus to control the sagittal drop there would be more energy to move forward and less wasted into overcoming the ground reaction forces (which she is maximizing) as dictated by Newton’s Laws.

are we the only ones seeing this stuff ?  hopefully you are starting to get real good at this stuff. 

The Gait Guys, saving one runners life (and hips and knees) one day at a time.

Shawn and Ivo

Here is some classic Shawn and Ivo, talking about rearfoot varus in one of our older “Manual Medicine Advisor” Podcasts. Sit back and enjoy!

The Gait Guys on Movement, Physiologic Overflow & Muscle Function.

Movement is largely isotonic, meaning that muscles maintain a steady state of contraction (“same tone”) throughout a physiological range of motion; in other words, our body mass does not change as we move through space. Exercise is specific as to the type of contraction (isometric, isotonic, isokinetic) and speed on contraction. Different rehabilitative exercises we prescribe can have different results based on the points or angles of application. This video discusses some of these points. See us also on You Tube: The Gait Guys

Watch for a Podcast of classic Shawn and Ivo at noon!

SCARY gait of the week.

OK, so we do not even have one complete gait cycle to look at, but what an excellent clinical example.

Here is an example of someone who has not earned the right to forefoot strike. Go ahead, step through the video a few frames at a time.

First notice the abductory twist of the Left foot as it leaves the ground (toe off). You will also notice that the left foot also leaves the ground with a low gear toe off instead of a strong push off the big toe/medial foot. Now watch the external rotation and abduction of that extremity (:05) so it can plan for the next footstrike and try and clear the Right leg.  Why is this ?  Well, we do not have a complete gait cycle but if you were to draw a line down the middle of the treadmill you would see that this is a great example of some of the things that occur during the CROSSOVER GAIT.  Yup, we are back pounding this flawed gait technique. It is common to strike the ground on the far lateral foot and then pronate quickly through the midfoot. It is also common to increase the foot progression angle. 

One might suspected forefoot varus as seen from :03-0:05, with the sudden forefoot pronation of the Right foot. It does look mostly controlled however, the steep Right forefoot varus positioning the the air before contact could bode more for the mechanics that go with the CROSSOVER gait.  (CrossOver gait you say ? Haven’t seen our 3 Part Cross Over gait video series on YouTube ?  click here for Part 1)

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!  Ditch the prison socks, read our treadmill article coming out soon in Triathlete magazine so you know the true problems of treadmills, and learn to run with good technique.

Have a marvy day, you footgeek, you

Ivo and Shawn