Monday, May 28, 2007

What's Next?

It is official, I'll be going to Jerusalem to work on an animated feature film for the next two years. So what's the next, and last race that I'll be doing at home for a long time? Maybe the San Diego marathon or a local 5K next weekend, I haven't made up my mind yet.

In any case, I did calibrate my running watch at the track on Saturday and met with some racewalking buddies on Sunday at the Valley Greek Festival. John Magnussen was there and he told me that the results and photos from the Palos Verdes Half-Marathon were up. I found us on page 17 and ordered a couple of shots.

.                                                                     Page 17
. Official results by PRIME TIME
===== === ===== =================== == = ===== = ============ ======= =====
. 818 48 1870 Daniel Fort 52 M M5054 West Hollywo 2:30:56 11:32
. 819 49 2227 John Magnussen 54 M M5054 Winnetka 2:31:00 11:32

If I can keep up that pace over a full marathon and with a few less hills, maybe I can do a 5-hour marathon. Seems like a challenge. In any case, if I don't do all my workouts this week I can say that I'm tapering!

Here are some more photos with John.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Way out of Calibration

This morning I did an easy 15 kilometer walk. This sort of makes up for Wednesday when I did such an easy 5k with Rosie that I didn't didn't bother turning on the running computer and yesterday when I skipped the morning workout because I had an early eye doctor appointment.

The stats look great:
Data                  Value   Unit
Duration 1:40:00
Sampling Rate 5 s
Running Index 60

Energy Expenditure 976 kcal
Number of Heart Beats 14512 beats
Recovery -15 beats
Minimum Heart Rate 95 bpm
Average Heart Rate 145 bpm
Maximum Heart Rate 159 bpm
Standard Deviation 9.1 bpm

Minimum Pace 17:08 min/km
Average Pace 5:52 min/km
Maximum Pace 4:20 min/km
Distance 17.0 km

Minimum Cadence 53 rpm
Average Cadence 73 rpm
Maximum Cadence 86 rpm

But--I walked my usual 15k route and it ended up measuring 17k. It is also averaging in my warm up and cool down but still coming up with a pace of under 6 minutes per kilometer. I wish this is true, but it has got to be way off. Tomorrow I'm going to the Cal Tech track and that will be my chance to calibrate the foot pod.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Oops--left the watch running in my back pack

This one got a good laugh at work:

Somehow I didn't turn off the watch after completing this morning's 10k walk. Of course there was no cadence, stride, heart rate measurements but it did record me driving over the Hollywood hills and into Glendale to work.

It was a good workout, 10 kilometers in 59:18 and kept going faster every kilometer.
Lap      Time         Lap Time     Speed   Avg of Lap    Avg from Start    Dist     Dist from Start
1. A 0:06:50.7 0:06:50.7 5:36 7:29 7:29 0.935 0.935
2. A 0:12:40.2 0:05:49.5 6:40 5:56 6:41 0.997 1.931
3. A 0:18:28.8 0:05:48.6 6:40 5:46 6:22 1.011 2.942
4. A 0:24:40.2 0:06:11.4 6:15 6:18 6:21 1.005 3.948
5. A 0:30:29.8 0:05:49.6 4:50 5:43 6:13 1.019 4.966
6. A 0:36:26.4 0:05:56.6 6:44 5:58 6:10 1.020 5.986
7. A 0:42:20.9 0:05:54.5 4:28 5:58 6:09 1.004 6.990
8. A 0:48:10.4 0:05:49.5 5:33 5:56 6:07 0.997 7.987
9. A 0:53:45.0 0:05:34.6 4:52 5:37 6:04 1.008 8.995
10. A 0:59:18.9 0:05:33.9 5:21 5:24 6:00 1.033 10.028

Monday, May 21, 2007

Easy Five

I just took an easy 5k walk this morning. Average heart rate was 124bpm and the time to complete 5k, including warm up, was 36:06. That's 7:13 min/km or 11:36 min/mile. I also kept it running during cool down and the heart rate recovery seemed pretty good. After the walk I did a full session of strength training and stretching.

However, I can't say I'm trusting the distance readings after the Palos Verde half-marathon. I got a reading of 23.4 km but this was a USATF certified course and the half-marathon distance should be 21.097494 kilometers. That's over a mile off!

Darn, I thought I was really picking up some speed while all the time the Polar RS800sd was miscalibrated. How can this be? A kilometer checked out fine on the Cal Tech track and it was actually measuring the 200 meters on the short side instead of adding distance like on the half-marathon.

Guess the foot pod is nice for cadence and stride length but it isn't accurate for long distances. I'll try to calibrate it when I get back on the track.

Then again they are coming out with a GPS accessory for the RS800. Maybe add another piece of equipment to the tool kit?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Palos Verde Half-Marathon

A group from Southern Cal Walkers and L.A. Roadrunners and L.A. Leggers decided racewalk the Palos Verde half-marathon and it was great fun. I decided not to hang out with the group and socialize so I took off early. By mile 5 John Magnussen caught up with me but he confessed that he ran to catch up. We helped each other and kept trading leads. His goal was 2:35 and I was hoping to do better than 2:30. By the turn around we were at 1:16 so I was close to my pace. The Polar RS800sd seemed to agree with the halfway mark but was off at the finish--probably because of that big downhill where I spent way too much time in the air.

Finishing time? I marked it at 2:31:20 (no chips on this race) but according to John the "official" time was 2:30:51. I'll update this post when the results are posted. However, 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers at 2:31 gives me an average pace of 11:31 min/mile or 7:09 min/km, that's almost a 5-hour marathon pace and is still better than the 12 min/mile I was shooting for as my marathon pace a while back. Of course the question is if I can hold that pace for twice as long as today. It was a tough course, just check out this chart.

That hill at mile 2 was too steep to racewalk up or down so we all took "running breaks" to get through it. It was all in fun and there were no judges. We all finished and it was great fun. Afterwards we went to Ports O'Call in San Pedro for a hearty brunch.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What I'll be Doing Tomorrow

May 19, 2007: 41st Annual Palos Verdes Marathon

Start Times:
7:00 am Full Marathon
7:30 am Half Marathon
8:00 am 5K Run and Community Fun Walk.

So tomorrow is the Palos Verde Marathon, 1/2 Marathon and 5K. I'll be doing the 1/2 Marathon with a bunch of local Racewalkers. The course promises to be very scenic.

But with that beauty will be some tough hills:

So I did my speed work, long workouts and hills--tomorrow we'll see how well prepared I am. No guesses on my finishing time because is all depends on the weather, how I'm feeling and just how challenging those hills really are.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Want to Walk with Olympians?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Weighty Decisions

This morning I did strength training and stretching. Earlier in the week I was thinking about scheduling a couple of hill workouts but I don't want to take a chance at injuring my knees and coming down that hill abuses the whole body. Tomorrow will be another strength training day because it seems to help me recover from any lingering muscle or joint ache--though I'm feeling great right now.

I'm not going to do anything different right now because it isn't a good idea to change the routine just before a race, but maybe the weights or the reps should go up. I might be getting stronger because the strength training exercises seem a little too easy.

For Friday I've got planned--nothing! One full day of rest before the half-marathon on Saturday.

Of course try to tell the guys at work that it is a rest day. The schedule is to work overtime through the weekend. Speaking of work, I've been offered a job that will bump me up to supervising editor at a new animation studio--in Israel for the next two years. The stress level is getting high, do I take the offer or stay in my comfy but meaningless job? What is the racewalking community like in Jerusalem?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I'm Not Quite Over The Hill--Or Am I?

This morning I went up the hill on La Cienega Blvd. to Sunset and back down San Vicente. It is the same hill work that I have done before, just over 5 kilometers total distance. I started out slowly to warm up before attacking the big climb. The last 100 meters or so is just too steep to keep the knees straight so I ran it. That got my hear rate up to the "hard intensity" range, about 166 bpm. Other than that, it was an easy walk.

So how did I do? By the end of the 5K mark my average pace from the start was 7:26 min/km, that's 11:57 min/mile. Funny, that was my marathon goal a few months ago. Not bad for someone who was a couch potato just last year.

Here are the altitude recordings, I'm not quite sure what to make of them yet:
Lap   Time        Lap Time   Altitude Avg of Lap  Ascent  Grade % VAM 
1. A  0:08:16.5  0:08:16.5  4  2  0  0.4  0 
2. A  0:15:41.4  0:07:24.9  28  12  24  2.4  194 
3. A  0:23:17.2  0:07:35.8  60  55  38  3.2  300 
4. A  0:30:07.3  0:06:50.1  26  46  0  -3.4  0 
5. A  0:36:52.5  0:06:45.2  -3  9  0  -2.8  0 
6.  0:42:24.9  0:05:32.4  -6  -3  0  -0.5  0 

Monday, May 14, 2007

15 Kilometers at 1:28:30

A while back I set a goal to do 5K under 30 minutes and 10K under an hour. I already achieved that first goal but today I reached the second and one I didn't even think I could do, 15K under 90 minutes. I turned off auto lap counting on Saturday and took Sunday off so I forgot to turn it back on, but here are my 5K splits:
5K  -   30:20    6:04 min/km    9:46 min/mile
10K - 59:30 5:57 min/km 9:35 min/mile
15K - 1:28:30 5:54 min/km 9:30 min/mile

I started out slow to warm up and kept going faster throughout the workout. I calculated the cumulative average pace, of course the pace of each 5K split would show an even more dramatic speed up:
1st 5K - 30:20   6:04 min/km    9:46 min/mile
2nd 5K - 29:10 5:50 min/km 9:23 min/mile
3rd 5K - 29:00 5:48 min/km 9:20 min/mile

This will be my last long walk before the 1/2 marathon in Palos Verde on Saturday.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Racewalker Tribute

On Saturday evening Chris Rael hosted a special evening for racewalkers. Here is what the invite said:
 You are invited to a very special evening that will honor the dedication,
hard work, and legacy created by our very own Elaine Ward. Elaine has
been the driving force behind the success of race walking in Southern
California and with the North American Race Walking Foundation she has
created an institution that will ensure its continued success for the

 We will be having a special dinner to raise funds to purchase a
Perpetual Trophy that will be awarded the winner of the race walk at the
Southern California Track & Field Championship meet. The trophy will
officially be called the Elaine Ward Race Walk Cup and will be awarded
each year to that year's champion.

Adding to the prestige of the evening will be the presence of two-time
Olympic 50km Race Walker Philip Dunn, just back from the Pan American
Race Walk Cup, where he finished as the top American and helped the USA
mens team win first place for the team award. Philip will talk about
his trip to Brazil and his experiences as an Olympian.

Philip Dunn going to speak at an event to honor my coach? I was in.

It was a very enjoyable evening and a nice way to relax after a hard workout at the track, and a Saturday at work--yep, we're working overtime to get the movie done in time.

One of the best bits of advice from Philip about training for a 50K is to get used to take fluids every 2 kilometers, even on shorter workouts. Indeed, I seem to do better on the longer walks partially because I'm taking in fluids and even nutrition in the form of gels to keep me going. I'll certainly take his advice on the 15K I've got planned for Monday and start carrying my hydration belt on all future workouts.

At the end of the evening he handed out these cards with his statistics. He said they were a bit "cheesy" but what the heck--here it is. Click on the image to see it in full glory.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

200 Meter Repeats

On Friday I just did a lap around the neighborhood with Rosie and Natty (my wife and my dog) so there is nothing training wise to report, though I did wear my fancy heart rate/speed distance monitor so it got recorded.

Saturday was a good hard workout of mostly interval work. Check out those curves on the chart:

There are some 30, 40, 50 intervals then an easy warm up followed by 200 meter repeats. Here's how it went:

1 - 55.8

2 - 56.7

3 - 54.5

4 - 57.7

5 - 54.4

6 - 57.5

Whoopi--all of them under 1 minute each. Just to get an idea of the pace, the fastest time, 54.4, equals 4:32.0 minutes/kilometer or 7:17 minutes/mile.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Half and Half

This morning I walked one lap of the neighborhood course with Rosie and our dog, Natty, and another lap by myself. This graphic shows the difference between a leisurely walk and racewalking at a good effort.

I put the cursor on kilometer 4 where it seemed that everything was moving along nice and steady. Note that the pace was well under a 30 minute 5k.

Afterwards I did strength training and stretching, a nice finish to an easy workout.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

10k at 1/2 Marathon Pace

Today I decided to do 10km at what I felt will be my half-marathon race pace. Maybe my schedule is a little off, but I put in a good effort. That average pace includes about a 1/2 kilometer warmup, I'm happy. Tomorrow will probably be an easy day--best not to overtrain before the next race.
Data                    Value   Unit
Duration 1:04:40
Sampling Rate 5 s

Number of Heart Beats 9971 beats
Recovery -30 beats
Minimum Heart Rate 94 bpm
Average Heart Rate 154 bpm
Maximum Heart Rate 164 bpm
Standard Deviation 9.2 bpm

Minimum Pace 14:38 min/km (23:33 min/mile)
Average Pace 6:23 min/km (10:16 min/mile)
Maximum Pace 4:50 min/km ( 7:46 min/mile)
Distance 10.1 km ( 6.21 miles)

Minimum Cadence 51 rpm
Average Cadence 74 rpm
Maximum Cadence 87 rpm

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Go Team Sixkiller!

One of my work buddies from the Northern California campus of DreamWorks Animation, PDI--Pacific Data Images, is training to do a charity bicycle ride around Lake Tahoe. Here's the link to donate to the cause:

Welcome to our Team In Training home page.

We are training to participate in an endurance event as members of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training. We'll be riding 100 miles around Lake Tahoe in June to raise money for this amazing organization. We are all raising funds to help stop leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma from taking more lives. We are completing this event in honor of dear friend of ours, Diane LaCroix, whom recently passed away from cancer in January, 2007, and in honor of Marty's grandfather, Hunter Glass, who also passed away from cancer in 1991. We need your support to cross the ultimate finish line - a cure!

Almost another day off

Monday was a day off. It was hot and I didn't even do stretching or strength training. Today should have been a 10km day but Rosie wanted to come out and walk and I didn't feel like walking alone. It was a very light workout but I followed it up with strength training and stretching. It is a bit too early to start tapering for the half marathon on May 19 so I've got to put in some hard workouts this week,
Data                    Value     Unit
Duration 0:43:50
Sampling Rate 5 s

Number of Heart Beats 4216 beats
Recovery -19 beats
Minimum Heart Rate 77 bpm
Average Heart Rate 96 bpm
Maximum Heart Rate 107 bpm
Standard Deviation 4.2 bpm

Minimum Pace 11:45 min/km
Average Pace 9:50 min/km
Maximum Pace 8:41 min/km
Distance 4.5 km

Minimum Cadence 52 rpm
Average Cadence 61 rpm
Maximum Cadence 67 rpm

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Walker Unfriendly Los Angeles

Today was my long workout so I decided to go 10 kilometers out and 10 back for a 20k walk. The forecast was for heat, possible winds and dry--not ideal conditions. There is a good walking, jogging path along Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills that has trees for shade and houses to block the wind so I headed out. However, 10 kilometers out turned out to be the middle of UCLA. I didn't turn on the altitude feature which was a mistake, there were lots and lots of hills along the route. To make things interesting I decided to return via Sunset Blvd. Another mistake, the sidewalk cuts in and out and walking on the street was somewhat dangerous.

I took along 4 bottles of my honey/salt drink and a single packet of Crank e-Gel. I took in one 8 ounce bottle per 5 kilometers and the e-Gel at the 10 kilometer mark. I was taking it slow and keeping well hydrated but it never got all that hot. Here's how it went:
Data                   Value   Unit
Duration 2:28:35
Sampling Rate 5 s
Running Index 48
Energy Expenditure 1367 kcal
Number of Heart Beats 20813 beats
Recovery -31 beats
Minimum Heart Rate 89 bpm
Average Heart Rate 140 bpm
Maximum Heart Rate 160 bpm
Standard Deviation 10.4 bpm
Minimum Pace 33:20 min/km
Average Pace 7:24 min/km (11:54 min/mile)
Maximum Pace 4:28 min/km ( 7:11 min/mile)
Distance 20.0 km (12.43 miles)
Minimum Cadence 40 rpm
Average Cadence 69 rpm
Maximum Cadence 91 rpm

Lap     Time         Lap Time   Speed Avg of Lap Avg from Start  Dist     Dist from Start
01. A 0:08:57.4 0:08:57.4 7:19 9:25 9:25 0.963 0.963
02. A 0:16:34.0 0:07:36.6 7:41 7:45 8:35 0.988 1.951
03. A 0:24:04.2 0:07:30.2 7:24 7:35 8:15 0.998 2.949
04. A 0:31:32.6 0:07:28.4 7:19 7:37 8:05 0.995 3.943
05. A 0:39:03.7 0:07:31.1 7:53 7:36 7:59 0.997 4.941
06. A 0:46:59.6 0:07:55.9 7:53 8:09 8:01 0.981 5.922
07. A 0:54:09.7 0:07:10.1 6:27 7:23 7:55 0.982 6.903
08. A 1:01:17.0 0:07:07.3 6:58 7:16 7:50 0.998 7.901
09. A 1:08:32.6 0:07:15.6 7:24 7:19 7:47 1.001 8.902
10. A 1:16:04.7 0:07:32.1 7:08 7:35 7:46 0.999 9.900
11. A 1:23:52.3 0:07:47.6 7:30 8:05 7:47 0.978 10.878
12. A 1:31:22.5 0:07:30.2 8:00 7:35 7:46 1.000 11.878
13. A 1:38:35.3 0:07:12.8 8:00 7:23 7:45 0.992 12.870
14. A 1:46:07.4 0:07:32.1 7:35 7:33 7:44 1.003 13.874
15. A 1:53:03.7 0:06:56.3 6:15 6:52 7:40 1.018 14.892
16. A 1:59:53.6 0:06:49.9 5:36 6:46 7:37 1.021 15.913
17. A 2:07:00.8 0:07:07.2 5:00 7:14 7:35 1.001 16.914
18. A 2:13:54.4 0:06:53.6 6:49 6:47 7:33 1.017 17.931
19. A 2:20:42.5 0:06:48.1 6:23 6:47 7:30 1.019 18.951
20. A 2:28:12.7 0:07:30.2 9:13 7:31 7:30 1.008 19.959

Although I felt that this was an exceptionally slow workout, especially with the hills and waiting for traffic lights, (I kept walking in circles while waiting for the light to change) it appears to be a fairly decent walk. In fact I was faster than the marathon goal pace I originally set for myself when I started racewalking about nine months ago.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

200 Meters at 54 Seconds

Speed work with the Southern Cal Walkers at the Cal Tech track. Pretty much the same as most Saturdays. Once again we got video taped. I started doing 200 meters repeats but only got through one before being called in to help out with the camera. Elaine Ward showed me a problem, I'm picking up my feet too high and wasting energy. I spent the rest of the workout concentrating on this technique tweak, doing easy laps and being sociable.

There was one high point in the day, I walked 200 meters in 54 seconds. That translates to 4:30 min/km or 7:14 min/mile.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Head for the Hills

Today I started walking up LaCienega Blvd. to Sunset and came back down San Vicente. That's quite a hill. Here's what it looked like on the Polar software. Note that the altitude feature is turned on.

Pretty cool. Just past 5k I really opened it up and got my speed to under 5 min/km, about 8 min/mile. Now if I can only hold that speed and keep going further and further!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Unscripted 10K

Today I didn't really have a plan other than to complete 10 kilometers on the morning walk. It started with a very easy kilometer followed by a run, then easy, I saw Rosie walking the other way so I changed direction and walked with her for a while then headed up a gentle hill and sped downhill. It was a very enjoyable workout and even though I wasn't going for a hard workout, I did get in a few minutes of good speed work.

Here's how the Polar software shows it. Compare it with yesterday's steady 5K walk.

I put the cursor on kilometer 2 where I did my run. I didn't feel like I was pushing myself very hard or going fast, but I haven't worked on my running in a long time so I'm inefficient and my heart rate shot up. Last time I measured a run I was close to a 9 minute mile, this time it was 5:18 minute kilometer. What does a 5:18 min/km translate to in minutes per mile, miles per hour or other units of measure?

Looks like my running has improved but I should be able to walk a kilometer at this pace. In any case, it was a fun workout. Tomorrow I'm going to hit the hills in preparation for the Palos Verdes half-marathon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Back to Normal

I was going to replace the battery on the foot pod but couldn't find the right type in the local store so I cleaned up the contacts with a pencil eraser and put it back together. It worked! I'm also pretty much recovered from Sunday's long walk so this is what a "usual" 5 kilometer morning workout looks like these days:

It is fun playing around with the software. Maybe I'll figure out how to turn on the temperature and altitude settings, though that doesn't seem to matter too much these days. The weather has been perfect every morning and there is virtually no elevation gain in my neighborhood course. However, hill work is in order if I'm going to do the Palos Verdes half-marathon.

For this workout:
Average Pace:   6:36   min/km  (10:37.3 min/mile)
Best Lap, km 3: 6:22.4 min/km (10:15.4 min/mile)
Max Pace: 4:27 min/km ( 7:09.7 min/mile)
Average Heartbeat: 144 bpm

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Equipment Malfunction

This morning I set off to do my usual 10km workout. Oh boy, I was feeling that 30km Sunday workout. Not to worry, it takes a few days to recover from a long walk and even though yesterday was a rest day, I did do my strength training routine. I thought I'd check my old mile markers and see if the RS800sd would give me a vastly different pace but the autolap feature wasn't working. In fact it wasn't reading the footpad at all. At about 8 kilometers I decided to cut the workout short. The watch read a workout time of 53:51 but the distance covered was only 0.33 kilometers, obviously an equipment malfunction. Anyway, the distance, cadence, stride length and anything else that needs the foot pad wasn't recorded this morning. It did record heartbeat, Max 150bpm, Min 120bpm and average 138bpm. That seems a little on the low side but I've noticed that my heartbeat has been slowing down while my speed has been going up--I take it that's a good thing.

So--I'm feeling pretty good and haven't been suffering from blisters, knee pain, muscle soreness, etc. for several months now. It wasn't changing shoes, getting orthotics or tinkering with some other equipment that I believe is keeping me injury free, it seems that good technique finally did the trick. Too bad that the doctors that I saw because of my knee problems when I was running didn't read this article from

EB: Correct Runners' Gaits, Cut Injuries with Sound and Mirrors

By Crystal Phend, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
April 30, 2007

aykIcon2 Add Your Knowledge™Additional Orthopedics Coverage

WASHINGTON, April 30 -- Retraining runners' gait patterns reduces or eliminates common injuries, researchers said here.
Action Points

  • Explain to interested patients that although the studies used specialized equipment in a laboratory for biofeedback, the same techniques can be taught without it.

  • These studies were published as abstracts and presented orally at a conference. The data and conclusions should be considered preliminary because they have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed publication.

Runners with knee pain from tibial stress fractures or patellofemoral pain syndrome who underwent an eight-session biofeedback program reduced pain by 50% to 100%, said Irene Davis, Ph.D., of the Running Injury Lab at the University of Delaware in Newark.

She noted that 76% of runners injure themselves in a year. "We know that this is related in part to how they run -- their mechanics."

To prevent reinjury, changing gait mechanics is key, Dr. Davis said. She reported preliminary outcomes of gait retraining from two small studies here at the Experimental Biology meeting.

Both studies included five runners who were having or were at high risk for two of the most common running-related injuries -- tibial stress fractures and patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Each patient first underwent a gait analysis. Then, at each of eight sessions, participants ran on a treadmill while connected to biofeedback equipment. The sessions lasted 15 minutes initially and built up to 30 minutes over the two- to four-week study period.

Over the final four sessions, the feedback was gradually removed. Runners were not allowed to run outside the laboratory during retraining to prevent them from reinforcing their old gait habits.

The first study used this protocol for patients with tibial stress fractures, which the researchers had previously linked to hitting the ground hard on each footstep.

These participants wore a shock-measuring device on their lower legs while running on the treadmill. A monitor displayed the force of each footstrike measured against what normal force should be.

The patients were asked to constantly adjust the hardness of their footsteps to stay at or below normal force.

Although all patients reported that the new gait pattern felt strange at first, by the end of the training program they had reduced the force of their footsteps by 50% on average.

Follow-up visits at one month showed that the changes persisted. One patient who came back at one year had also maintained the new gait pattern, Dr. Davis said.

The second study enlisted patients with patellofemoral pain syndrome, characterized by pain under the kneecap. Prior research indicated that these patients' hips rotate inward producing a knock-kneed running style.

As these patients ran on a treadmill, markers on their legs provided feedback on the position of their knees. Again, patients watched their gait on a monitor compared to a normal gait and were told to keep their knees apart without letting them collapse inward.

After the eight sessions, patients' kneecap pain dropped from five to seven points on a 10-point scale -- to zero in every case. At a one-month follow-up, all retained the new gait pattern despite returning to their normal running schedule.

Many patients are prescribed cushioning footwear or orthotics to change the way the foot strikes the ground, but these are going to be ineffective if the cause is at the hip, Dr. Davis said. And cushioned shoes typically improve shock by only 10%, she noted.

"As humans we are very adaptable," she said. "Retraining is better than foot wear or orthotic modifications."

Although few clinicians have access to the kind of biofeedback equipment used in the studies, Dr. Davis said the same techniques can be used without it. "You don't have to have high tech equipment," Dr. Davis said. "Both of the protocols, I think, can be translated into the clinic."

She said she has used a mirror for patients with patellofemoral pain syndrome. They watch the position of their knees as they run in place.

"For people who are hitting the ground too hard, tell them to listen to their footsteps and ask them to try to make them softer," Dr. Davis added.

She suggested enlisting the help of a physical therapist for gait analysis.

Dr. Davis said one patient she retrained using a mirror had good results, but she said it is too early to speculate whether the results outside the lab would be as good as inside.

She said her group hopes to complete a study comparing the two methods to see if the outcomes are similar. Meanwhile, the two studies are continuing to accrue patients with the goal of 60 runners.

While gait retraining in the clinic may rely on patients' motivation to practice these techniques, Dr. Davis said she has seen no problems with willingness.

"Runners are such a good group," she said. "They are so motivated to continue to run."

"The hardest part of this, though, is keeping people [from] running outside the program," she said.

The research was funded by the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Davis reported no conflicts of interest.

Additional Orthopedics Coverage

Primary source: Experimental Biology meeting
Source reference:
Davis ES "Running: A Threshold For Injury" EB meeting 2007; Abstract 189.2.