Tuesday, 14 August 2007

reflective silver balls in Charlottesville VA

Jay Dicharry can make you feel inadequate, or at least very inefficient. You have no idea of this when he sticks little silver balls to your joints - knees, hips, ankles - and tapes over the reflective patches on your shoes. He then makes you run on a treadmill: no treadmill like you've seen before, but a grand platform with a moving section split into three parts in the centre, with a great arch overhead and eleven cameras positioned around the room. How fast do you want it? asks the techie whose hands move over keyboard and mouse.

This biomechanical test happens in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I happen to be killing time. The Speed Clinic is not a bad place to kill time. Even if there is a faint undertone of mockery. I guess they don't mock the elite who pass through their doors seeking a 3D analysis that can only be obtained in a handful of research labs, but the majority of their customers must be the aging and the hapless, the desperate-to-improve whose day jobs won't let them, or the well-heeled curious. I'd recommend it to anyone.

The treadmill measures pressure, the cameras measure the movement of the balls. Next thing you know the computer is spilling out graphs showing the forward, lateral and rotational movement of each joint. Then Jay is telling you that the 5 degree reverse mobility in your right hip is somewhat less than the 18 or 19 he'd hope for. And that there's too much vertical motion. And your cadence is too low. And your right leg tends not to cross the line of movement. And the power is delivered too late in your stride. And your right foot seems to have no idea what it's doing, sometimes landing on the inside, sometimes on the outside. And guess what: you're a heel striker (not news).

And I have the graphs to prove it. Pages and pages that represent the inefficiencies and irregularities of what seems a natural motion. This is me running on paper in two-dimensional linear form. It's pretty amazing. I should scan and blog them so you can laugh.

The outcome is a series of stretches, exercises and drills to improve your form, your tranverse abdominals, your stability more generally. And a DVD showing you running and presenting the same exercises. Oddly enough I watch a video of me running and everything looks fine, even quite efficient. But according to Jay I'm a series of thinly-disguised train wrecks happening in quick succession.

I've upped my cadence, running early to avoid the humidity and high temperatures of Charlottesville in August. I've tried lifting my heels more. I've worked on that core stability. I've done my time on a foam roller. I've no idea if it's going anywhere. Unfortunately when you've had graphs made, it increasingly looks like the only point is to go somewhere and to go there faster.

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