This coach wants you running at age 77 and beyond

Mile to Marathon Founder and Coach Ron Byland has helped runners achieve P.R.s for 35 years. The 3D Gait Analysis at the Sweere Clinic Biomechanics Lab gave him invaluable information about his running gait. Find out how the analysis can be part of your self-care routine to prevent injury and achieve P.R.s. 

Running is hard. Ron Byland, founder and coach at Mile to Marathon doesn’t deny that. But, he will tell you that 99% of people can run, and most just struggle taking that first step out the door. 

“A handful of years ago I coached a lady who was 77 years young. She’s now the national champion in the mile and the 5k,” shared Byland. “She started running a couple of years before, just to see if she could. Now she’s a national champion. So if she can do it, I’m pretty sure most of us can do it.” 

Why try? In the short term, running can reduce anxiety by increasing the levels of endocannabinoids in the bloodstream. And in the long term, running or any aerobic exercise reduces cognitive decline. Plus, most of us, once we get started, find joy in pushing ourselves to run faster and do better. 

Of course, there are many aches, pains, and injuries that keep us off the road. Many of those problems come not from the nature of the sport itself, but from improper form and lack of care for our bodies. “I think there’s so many things people don’t do that would help alleviate a large percentage of pain and injuries,” explained Byland. “Doing the strength training, nutrition, foam rolling, shoes, and getting a gait analysis.” 

The Importance of a Runner’s Gait

A runner’s gait, or the way they run, is vitally important for both their performance (getting a P.R.) and injury prevention. “If I can improve your form 1%, 2%, 3% over where you’re at right now, do the math. If you’re running a marathon that’s 10 or 15 minutes faster without doing anything harder, you’re just now more efficient.” 

There are many gait analyses out there, offered by running stores and clinics across the country. The goal of these tests is to identify problems with a runner’s form, but the level of detail varies greatly between tests.  

Why does detail matter? The source of a gait problem is often more complicated than where you feel the pain, or where the issue shows up on a simple video recording. 

“I think on one hand, if people can focus on changing their gait just a little bit, they can get amazing results,” said Byland. “But it’s also brutally hard to change your gait.” A 3D gait analysis can make changing your gait easier by identifying the root of the problem. 

The Data You Need to Correct Your Gait 

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The Biomechanics Lab at Sweere Clinic performs the most detailed 3D Gait Analysis in the Twin Cities, offering the results runners need to find the source of their gait problems. 

“I’ve gone through a lot of lab tests, gait analyses, muscle biopsies…but I had never gone through one that was so data driven and scientific,” said Byland of the 3D analysis at the Biomechanics Lab. 

During a 3D gait analysis, cameras capture your motion from every angle, including a high-speed video of your foot strikes. The treadmill you’re running on measures force each time you take a step. 

As a result, you receive a report identifying gait issues, using both kinematics (joint angles) and kinetics (forces). This level of detail will give you meaningful insight into what is going on with your form, abnormal forces, and how to correct it.

“All of a sudden I could feel a difference”

Byland has spent a lot of time thinking about his gait. He ran semi-professionally in the 1980s, and has been a run coach for 35 years, and has worked with over 5000 runners, ranging from those beginning their running careers, to helping runners qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials, and everyone in-between. “I’ve always considered myself pretty self-aware of what my body is doing,” shared Byland. “ I can tell if I’m locking my knees or I’m too tight in my shoulders or my face.” 

When he came in for the 3D Gait Analysis at the Biomechanics Lab, he got off the treadmill and told Dr. Greg DeNunzio “oh, my left side doesn’t work as well as my right.”

The results showed almost the opposite: his right ankle was locked up, causing his left side to compensate. 

“We’re guessing that years ago, I twisted my ankle or did something to it,” he explained. “Once I had that released, all of a sudden I could feel a difference in my gait.” 

Without the 3D level of detail, Byland might have focused his efforts on his left side since that’s where he was feeling the problem. Without correcting the problem on his right side, any results he achieved would have been temporary at best. 

“This kind of information is invaluable,” said Byland. “And it doesn’t matter if you’re an Olympian or starting to train for your first 5k.” 

“This is your starting point” 

The 3D gait analysis can identify the root problem(s) of your gait, which is step one. Depending on your results, a chiropractor, physical trainer, or run coach may be able to help you address the problem and improve your form. “This is your starting point. If you’re going to commit the time and energy to training, why not start with all cylinders firing versus trying to do it on a bad hip or ankle?” asks Byland. 

And then of course, you have to get out the door and run. Running with a club like Mile to Marathon can not only help you stay motivated, but will help you get better. 

“You can run well training by yourself, but you will never reach your potential.” explained Ron. “In a run club, you’re going to do everything in your power to hang on to your appropriate pace group. That’s what Mile to Marathon is all about.”  

The end goal: making it a lifestyle. “I’m 63 years old,” said Byland. ‘I want you running when you’re 63 years old and still passionate about it, still smiling, going ‘this is the greatest thing on the planet.’”

Ready to take the next step to improve your running form? Check out the Biomechanics Lab at Sweere Clinic and Mile to Marathon Run Club for more information.