My Gait Analysis Follow-Up Appointment: A Valuable Lesson in Dissociation

St. Luke’s Sports Medicine is a very generous sponsor of our running team, the Boise Betties, and as part of that sponsorship we can send a runner or two per month in for a detailed gait analysis. This month it was my turn. Two weeks ago, I went in and completed paperwork, did a videotaped session on the treadmill, and several strength and flexibility tests. This week I went back to watch the videos and learn about the areas in which I most need to improve.

As most of us do, I cringed at the idea of having to watch myself run on video. I asked those who had gone before me if it might be appropriate to bring beer or wine for the viewing session. Maybe some Xanax? My coach met me there for my appointment too, with pen and paper in hand so that she could take notes and incorporate any suggestions from the therapists into my training program.

I have done a gait analysis before. I have seen myself running on videotape. I am not sure I had seen myself running on videotape in super slow motion. All I could see were portions of my body moving up and down in disjunction with other portions. Ga-gunk. Ga-gunk. I tried not to focus on that. I tried to play scientist and focus on angles and hip drops and detach myself as best I could from any emotional attachment to the image on the screen, instead trying to soak up what information I could from the health professionals in the room who could teach me how to improve.

But occasionally the eating disordered 16 year old that is still stuck inside me would rear her ugly head: “Look at all of that extra on you. No wonder you are not faster.” To which the older, wiser and more dominant 40 year old woman would reply: “Excuse me little girl, this body can run marathons. This body has birthed three beautiful children. This body is strong. And this body keeps going. So excuse me while I keep listening to these physical therapists because I do not have time for your crap.”

The appointment was very humbling (to say the least), yet also eye opening and gave me things to work on. For example, I saw that I strike the ground with too straight of a leg, which I believe is a compensatory pattern due to years of pain behind the knee cap. The knee pain may be due to weak hips and my glutes not firing so I am going to continue working on hip strength (which I was already working on) and glute recruiting exercises and see if I can make any improvements in this area over time.

In running practice the next morning we did hill repeats. They were the first ones I had done in months, since I am just coming back from injury. I could feel my quads and lower back over working while my glutes were still sleeping. I felt frustrated and remembered my appointment the day before. As I thought back to all of the things that were “wrong” with my running, I felt overcome with negativity and frustration. I was not appreciating my body for the things that it could do, but rather getting angry with it for the things that, in my mind, it was not doing.

Later that day, I read an article about a Playboy playmate who had taken a picture of another woman in the shower at a gym without her permission and then body-shamed her on social media. I was horrified. Who does this? Here we have a beautiful woman who feels the need to take a nude photo of another woman, post it online thereby violating this woman’s privacy in a horrible way, and say awful things about her. Don’t you think it has something to to with the fact that deep down the perpetrator, a playboy model, feels insecure about her own looks and her own body, so she tears others down to feel better about herself? We all know there is a better way. This mom’s response is the best.

Each body is beautiful because each body is uniquely ours. Our bodies can do amazing things. When we push ourselves, sometimes we learn that our bodies can do things we never thought we were capable of. Of course we do not look like photos in magazines. Those are not real. We are. Let’s celebrate each other and what our bodies can do, not what they canNOT

Today my body completed its first race, a short sprint triathlon, since I turned 40 three months ago and was diagnosed a day later with a stress reaction in my foot. I am so thankful for what my body could do today and am hopeful for the future. And next time I am doing hill repeats, I will be thankful that my body is able to run up a hill, no matter which muscles are propelling it. My glutes may be a little late to the game, but they will get there. I will make sure of it.

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