You can’t manage what you can’t measure

I think that it’s a rather outdated management saying – that you can’t manage what you can’t measure, or something like that. And I am going to clumsily apply it to an experience I had recently at Premier Podiatry

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Ken Hoye, runner.

I have known Ken Hoye for quite a few years now and a while ago he contacted me to let me know that he was now working for Premier Podiatry. We talked about what they do and he invited me to come and have a hands-on experience. It confirmed something that I sort of had an inkling about and potentially showed me a way to become a better runner.

Ken is a sports scientist, a rather handy runner, a coach and – importantly for the point of this post – a biomechanical specialist. He and I have shared the road and track in the past, but now I was going to see what he could tell me about my wonky body.

What Ken didn’t know – and I didn’t tell him – was that when I was in my first year at Exeter Uni I broke my ankle playing rugby. Three days in the hospital in Devon, a trip home to south London in the back of my Dad’s van (thanks for the rescue Dad) and an ‘open reduction and internal fixation’ – plate in the leg, basically – later and I was… never going to do sport again. From that point on I did practically no exercise, drank and ate too much and smoked.

Since I have started running I found a new lease of life. I also discovered that my right leg, the one with the metal work, is not really very good. Any time I up the mileage significantly, the ankle joint stiffens up and the pain that starts below my ankle bone has at times tracked all the way up the back of my leg and into my glute.

My response to all this has been a stubborn refusal to acknowledge it. I have simply pushed past it. I try to make sure that I stretch my achilles and calves really well. I have an ice pack for when the pain gets really bad and my ever-patient wife will often give me a massage to try to loosen my ankle up.

However when Ken suggested I come and see what my biomechanics are like I jumped at the idea.

Serkis with the same little silver balls that I was covered in.
Serkis with the same little silver balls that I was covered in.

The set-up at Premier Podiatry near Bank in the City of London is great. There is a lovely reception area and a room with racks and swings and a treadmill. I had been told to wear cycling-style shorts and once we got started Ken stuck little silver balls on specific points on my legs: hips, knees, ankles. This is very reminiscent of the technology that was used to turn actor Andy Sertis into Gollum for the Lord of the Rings films and in fact the technology used by Premier Podiatry includes the same cameras that are used for that process. After a bit of set-up I was asked to walk and then run on the treadmill and suddenly I could see a skeleton representation of me running on a screen that Ken monitored.

The whole procedure was over really fast and almost immediately Ken was able to show me some of the results. Basically I’m wonky and my right ankle is where the problems emanate from. The best thing is that Premier have set levels of mobility and pronation that they can then compare you to. On some of the most important one, I suck. Which really makes me wonder what I would have been capable of if I had got my ankle right as soon as I started running.

premier-podiatry-logoI think that the importance of all this is that if you don’t know where your biomechanical weaknesses are then there is no way you can work to fix them. The next step for me is trying to figure out what I need to do next and Ken and his colleagues have told me that they have a range of ways that they can help. I want to be a runner for the rest of my life, so I am determined to find the time and resources to go back and try to find ways to fix my biomechanical imbalances. If you are serious about your running, then you should too – it might well be the key to unlocking untapped potential!

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