The Sweatshop Experience: Gait Analysis

Following my departure as Yeovil Montacute parkrun Event Director, the team surprised me by awarding me the “parkrunner of the month” for my services to the event, which I was chuffed as nuts about! The prize was a free pair of professionally fitted trainers.

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This past weekend I finally got a chance to redeem the prize and visited my “local” (45 miles away) Sweatshop in Bristol, where I fully intended to make the most of the gait analysis and fitting experience.

My first “Gait Analysis” took place some time after my first half marathon. I visited Go Outdoors in Basingstoke, and it wasn’t the most thorough experience. Quite literally the bloke just looked at the sole of my shoes and decided that I should wear Salamon GTXs. Hardly scientific, no treadmill running at all to look at my gait cycle, and it felt a bit like I was being rushed or not treated seriously. Either way, the shoes themselves didn’t do my any damage, and I continued in them until I ran the Paris Marathon.

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Paris turned out to be their last outing (I went through 2 pairs), as they’d all but fallen apart by the time I got back to the hotel, and I left them in the room on departure. I would have liked to have kept them but they really smelled and needed the room in my case… so much for sentiment!

After Paris and after a week off running I thought it was time to get re-analysed. I’d progressed a lot as a runner, and thought I’d best get checked out at my most local store, Tri UK. This experience was much better than it was at Go Outdoors. I actually ran on the treadmill, they showed me the video and we tried out various shoes to correct my overpronation. The downside here was they were exclusively Asics. Not a problem really, they are a great running brand, but due to the limited options there was no real way to check the ones I tried on really were the best across the market.

Either way, I’ve been wearing Asics Gel Kayanos for the last 18 months, and I love them. But I wanted to make sure the shoes I was wearing were the right ones and weren’t causing my underlying injuries, so the visit to Sweatshop would have been well worth the visit, rather than just buying the same old pair online.

It was a bit odd walking into a David Lloyd Leisure Centre in order to find the shop, but once inside it was just like any other Sweatshop. In fact it actually seemed a bit better stocked than Reading, and has a wide range of brands, unlike the Nike exclusive shop in Exeter. Finding it wasn’t easy, as there was no signage for the shop itself at all. If I hadn’t checked on the website, I would never have known it was actually inside the leisure center.

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The chap that served me was extremely knowledgable. He asked me all about my running background, if I’d had any injuries etc before getting my on a foot analysis machine. The purpose, it seemed, was to sell me custom insoles – obviously a value add/upsell service that they are trying to punt to customers in order to help prevent foot related injury.

What he was saying made sense. As a species we evolved as front foot walkers, which meant the foot arch and plantar fascia were stretched and exercised while walking and running. Nowadays, we are heel walkers and (generally speaking) runners, so the foot arch doesn’t get stretched in the same way which leads to your foot rolling inwards – overpronating. This can lead additionally lead to tension in the Plantar Fascia which can also lead to other problems in the achilles and calf, and of course then you overcompensate in the other leg. It was a pretty compelling argument. The long term cure was to run with your toes in an elevated position. This should, over time, stretch the muscles in the foot to counter the tightness and correct your pronation and be the cure to all of your running ailments!

The sale itself was for custom insoles moulded to your foot with the toes elevated that you slip into your trainers. But at £45 quid it seemed a bit steep and I figured I’d go and research them a bit (which I’m sure I’ll get around to at some stage… maybe). He did mould the soles anyway (Apparently they can get remoulded) so I could see what it was like running in them during my analysis.

The lad in the shop when to get me a pair of neutral shoes to run in and came out with some adidas Ultra Boosts. WOW. They were so lightweight and so comfortable running in them felt effortless (Well, as effortless as can be given my awkward running on a hangover on a dreadmill).

He then showed me the footage, as well as explained each stage as we cycled through my stride and showed me where my foot was rolling in. It was clear as day that I am definitely still an overpronator!

We then looked at the stability shoes on the market which are typically recommended for overpronators and we looked at the Nike Zoom Structure (I think), adidas Sequence Boost, and the newest model of my old favourite, the Gel Kayano 22. These were largely my own selections, purely because I a) liked the Nike brand and wear Nike clothing all the time, b) I’d heard great things about the Boost technology. I’m sure I would have been able to try Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance if I liked but I wanted to try these three.

The Nike’s were so comfortable and looked fantastic. I loved them, however I made the decision going into this process that I’d go with the shoes that made the best correction to my overpronation. They did a very good job but there was still a small roll to my foot. The guy said that they looked pretty good, but said we are best to try all three, which I agreed with.

We then went to the adidas. Even lighter than the Nike’s and even more comfortable, but noticeably less support than the Nike’s.

Finally, we went to the Gel Kayano 22s. After going through the 20s and the 21s with barely a change between them, the 22s are a big departure from the norm. A completely remodelled upper, different material and different build to the structure of the upper too have made them hug the foot much better and also seem to be a lot lighter (10 grams according to the literature). They look much more modern and seem to have learned from their competitors who have similar technologies in place. But the most important thing was the treadmill test. Bang. it was immediately obvious that this totally corrected my pronation.

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So I ended up with the same shoes as I always get. But I wear them now with a renewed confidence that I am in the right shoes for the job, and confidence as a runner can do wonders from a psychological point of view.

I have to applaud the chap who served me who was patient, knowledgeable and experienced and know exactly what he was doing. It was an incredibly pleasurable shopping experience, made even better by the fact that I wasn’t paying!

If you need a gait analysis, I recommend Sweatshop. Great range, great service, great knowledge. Thank you for a fantastic experience.

 

 

 

 

Great North Run – Not worth the hype!

Yes, I said it. I don’t think the Great North Run is ‘the worlds favourite half marathon’.

I just don’t know by what metric it can be considered even close?

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We traveled up from Leeds, where we stayed with family, on the morning of the race and parked at the recommended Metro Station as listed in the official booklet – Heworth. It’s about halfway between the start and finish so should have been easy access to both. No problem parking, but lots of problems getting on the metro!

We queued for the ticket machine which isn’t a problem in itself, but just as we were getting our tickets, they closed access to the platform. It remained closed with no explanation as to why, and the station was getting more and more filled with anxious runners worried about getting to the start on time. After an hours wait, we eventually were allowed on. Turns out the trains coming from South Shields were unsurprisingly full. More, frequent trains needed and much better communication required.

When we got to Haymarket station, we followed the swarm of runners beelining to the start. The baggage buses closed at 10.05 apparenty – No problem I thought. Jodie needed the loo so I said my farewell and wished her luck as I took her bag to the baggage bus. Just as I got there I heard an announcement… ‘The baggage buses will close in 5 minutes’. No worries – I was just about in time.

Unfortunately the police on their horses had different ideas and I was told in no uncertain terms that the buses were CLOSED. I got a bit angry… The Metro being rubbish and the announcement telling us contrary information made for an unhappy Matty! I got the bag on the ‘late baggage truck’ (even though we weren’t late) but this meant that at the end we had to wait for 25 minutes for them to unload it!

Anyway, Jodie was at the start safely – or so I thought. Despite her being there on time, they closed the start pens early and she was told to go to the very back – despite there being plenty of room! People were climbing and ducking the fence, doing anything they could to get in. Surely that is more unsafe than keeping the pens open longer and letting people in the right way? Anyway, Jodie saw an opportunity to hop in the Orange start (she was in the White wave) and took it. And off they went.

I should mention here that I wasn’t actually a participant in the race. I was there to support Jodie and get my own long run in – I figured the best way to do this was to run to the end! There was a perfectly good course laid out after all. Just to clarify, I did not set a single foot on the course except to cross the road. I ran on the footpaths and pavements next to the course, as if I were any other supporter – I just happened to be running. I did not take any water, supplies or use any facility other than a toilet, which are fair game for supporters anyway. So I got a good, different view of the race.

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I started at about the same time as the female elites, and was able to give Gemma Steel a quick cheer. Then I potted along the course at my long run pace. I tracked and supported some of the blind/guided runners – one of the guides thinking I was James Cracknell – until I heard the chopper coming, so I pulled over and watched Mo and company run past.

Mo Farah – Great North Run 2015 from Matthew Warr on Vimeo.

He made it look so effortless, tucked in among the Africans. And I even made it on the telly!

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I continued on my merry way as the faster runners came along and eventually, a steady stream were just flowing past.

The positive side of the Great North Run is that the support is FANTASTIC. But course wise, it’s not a lot to write home about. The Tyne bridge is good, and Jodie was lucky enough to be on it when the red arrows did their fly past (we think this is her below on the telly). But there is nothing else to get excited about other than the finish.

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The goody bag, for the price, was disappointing. A bag of crisps, non technical tee, craisins and some waterproofing and that was about it. For such an expensive race you expected more. The medal was similar to all the other Great Run medals.

After the race, the Metro is about 2 miles walk away it seemed. By the time we got to it we found the queue. Apparently it was a MILE long. And I’m not even using that term figuratively. We weren’t up for the wait and I’d have paid a taxi driver ANYTHING to get bag to the car – so we went to find one. it was only by sheer luck that we stumbled across a bus that happened to be stopping at our station. Sure, it took a while to get through the traffic, but rather sat on a bus than stood in a queue for hours to get on a cramped Metro.

Getting out from Heworth station was a straight forward affair, and we even got a glimpse of the Angel of the North. We got on the motorway and started the long journey home.

I just don’t think the infrastructure is there to take my pain points away from the event, and people keep going back regardless of the problems. But in my view many smaller events like Bristol (if 10,000+ people is “small”) has good support and relatively few problems. The course isn’t much there either but the organisation is superb. Cardiff is another excellent example of a smaller event, but the curse at Cardiff has a lot to see too. The Great South Run, same company, is an EXCELLENTLY organised race. So it doesn’t really make sense to me.

I don’t know, perhaps our woes aren’t a fair assessment of the event. It must be hard organising something of this magnitude.  There are plenty of other brilliant events to try without the chaos and long travel.

We agreed we are glad we experienced it – but we shan’t be going up again. Jodie has the medal, but I won’t miss not having it. We’ll let a couple of others have a chance in the ballot.

 

Patience is a virtue (that I don’t have)

Have you every tried to explain to a child that if they perform “action x” then the consequence will be “consequence y” which will usually result in tears?

That could be a metaphor for my injuries…. Only I am both the parent and the child.

I know that its a bad idea to increase intensity and volume at the same time – So why did I ramp up the mileage and run sessions at speeds in excess of my current fitness?

I know my body reacts badly when I don’t have 2 rest days a week – So why did I insist on running 20 days in a row?

Answer to both: Because I am one impatient bastard!

All I’ve wanted since getting back from Honeymoon is to be back to where I used to be, so I’ve been trying everything I can to regain that fitness. What a stupid idea.

My insistence on running further and faster to try and some how shortcut the route back to fitness unsurprisingly resulted in injury.

There just are no shortcuts. Lesson learned.

In positive news, my runs have been coming back together. Sure, I’m way behind where i want to be, but I think I may be able to just about be back in line with where I was last year, thanks to looking at my Strava Training Log.

Last nights intervals were a little slower than McMillan thinks I should be doing but I’m a little “speed rusty”. I finished feeling tired but not too shattered today, so I do have a bit more to give there.

With any luck I’ll be able to run the Great Birmingham Run at a pace similar to that I ran Bristol Half 2014.

I also hope to lose a good few more pounds (It’s heading in the right direction) which should equate to a few extra precious seconds per mile come race day.

If I manage some time around that I’ll be pretty happy.

On The Injury Bench

It was all going so well…

6 weeks post wedding and honeymoon and I’d built my milage up nicely, things were starting to click again and I’d finally gained some traction in my weight loss.

Then my foot started playing up. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I did know it was uncomfortable, but didn’t seem to affect my gait.

Then Saturday came and off I went on my long run, 16 miles around sunny Basingstoke, taking in the pleasures of Basingstoke parkrun with no real problem – until I finished.

Once I got out of the shower, any sort of movement in my left foot was painful. Twisting, flexing, walking… stairs were a nightmare. Any sort of movement which applied pressure was painful.

No idea what happened but somehow its all become a bit sprained at the forefoot. I immediately Googled the symptoms and self diagnosed it as Metatarsalgia (As I have an infinite wisdom, clearly!) but its more likely just a mild sprain.

It seems to be better when I’m wearing shoes than when wearing flip flops probably as they offer some support.

Needless to say though, I’m gutted!

I’ve been resting it a few days now and it seems to be a bit better and will try and run again on Friday with a gentle recovery plod. But it’s not only me, Jodie is injured too. She can’t manage more than 4 miles without her knee becoming painful and she may have to defer the Great North Run 🙁

We are trying to remain motivated and pragmatic about it – it’s better to rest now and avoid long term damage, but its hard when all you want to do is go out and have a blast round the streets.

It’s already reached the point where I want to throw stuff at runners as I drive past in a fit of jealous rage.

The moral of this story?

Don’t get married.

(I’m kidding! I have no morals!)