I do a lot of people-watching. When I'm at a race, I watch runners' strides and gaits. I watch runners on the side of the road. I watch my teammates.
Everyone has a different running style. Some have serious spring in their step. Others seem to shuffle along. Some seem to run with ease. Others seem to exert themselves.
I'm not sure what my running style is, but lately I've noticed an ever-increasing clunkiness to my steps. At first I attributed to an off-day. Some days running is just easier than others.
The other day as I ran a mid-week jaunt near my home, I felt as if I was favoring my right side. My right foot seemed to hit the pavement with more conviction and a steadier step.
While I surely wasn't limping, I didn't feel even. I couldn't put my finger on it, but decided to make a mental note of it to see if it continued.
As I did more runs, I felt increasingly uncoordinated. I couldn't get into the rhythm I'd managed to achieve in previous runs. I'll admit that I'm not a 'pretty' runner. I don't spring along like a gazelle. Not a natural, you might say.
If it's possible that something could become more unnatural, that's what seemed to be happening to me and running. I questioned whether I'd actually be able to complete the upcoming marathon. Would it be smarter to just try to improve my performance in a half marathon?
Determined not to get to that point yet, I decided to make it through my mid-week runs and ask Coach Jack at my next practice.
Turns out I didn't have to. He beat me to it.
Coach Jack and Dave ended up running behind me and Erin for a while during Saturday's team run. Coach Jack noticed that my gait was off -- the message got passed to me by Dave, who caught up with me for the remaining miles after Jack and Erin turned back.
The diagnosis: Tight hips.
It made sense. At times I could feel a tightness in my hips, especially the left one. It would certainly explain my clunky gait. Coach Jack noticed my feet flaring out in an awkward way -- a sign that I needed to stretch my hips a lot more.
I had the diagnosis, but now I needed to know how to stretch my hips. Sounds funny, but I wasn't exactly sure how to target that area.
Dave showed me a few stretches and I did some more searching online. I tried them out and could really feel the pull, in a good way. I'm determined to set aside some time for extra stretching and get in a few Bikram yoga sessions.
Hopefully I'll get my rhythm back -- well, as much as I ever had to begin with.