Sunday, September 20, 2015

Eating and Running

By Jillian Van Leer

My running journey started 5 ½ years ago. Growing up, I was an avid hater of running. I couldn’t run a full mile, let alone be one of the fast kids in gym. I hated it so much, I wouldn’t even run while playing tennis.

Life went on, and in January of 2010, my soon-to-be sister-in-law asked me if I would run the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure with her. I laughed and said, “I don’t run.” She said, “I don’t either.” Since the two of us don't live near each other, I trained for five months with a friend. My training started on the treadmill, but I hated it with a passion, so I started running at night in my subdivision and, boy, did I become addicted quickly! I trained with the Couch to 5K program.  My sister-in-law ended up walking the entire 5K because she still hated running. I still tease her because I fell in love with it and she despises it with a passion, but it was her prompting me that start got me addicted to running!
Not my first 5K, but my 5K PR to date!
I really was astonished to discover that I loved running! I loved the alone time, the openness of the road, and the freedom it entailed! I loved how I felt afterward, how I felt like I could do anything. I had more confidence, I was happier, more joyful, and I had more energy to play with (then) young boys! I couldn’t believe the new-found positivity that running gave to me. More than all of these things, though, running helped me in ways I never thought possible.

You see, I had been struggling with overeating/purging ever since my oldest son was born. I hated my new “MOM” body. I wasn’t good to it. I overate because I was depressed, and the things I ate were bad for me; I didn’t nourish myself at all. After eating those bad things, I would feel so sick that I would make myself purge it. It was not fun, and definitely not healthy.

When I began running, I had been dealing with the eating disorder for four years. Nothing seemed to help. I couldn’t get myself under control, I was trapped in a dark place no one else should have to experience. Counseling didn’t seem to help, and even telling family members only helped a little, but not enough to make me STOP. That is, until I started running.

Running gave me a new-found confidence I’d never felt. With running, I gained the confidence in myself not only to run farther and farther, but to actually take care of myself overall. It was quickly apparent that if I didn’t eat healthier, I couldn’t run like I wanted; I also learned that when I did overeat, running was difficult and not as enjoyable. Not all the credit goes to running: counseling with my then-pastor was tremendously helpful, but without running, I don’t think I could have overcome my disorder.
With my three kiddos after the Mother's Day 5K this year.
I still go through spurts of unhealthy eating, spurts of not running, but it’s all a process and I know that. I know I might struggle my whole life with this, but the older I get, the easier it gets to handle. The more confident I become in myself, the better it gets. I owe my life to running: it finally helped me love my body, appreciate my body, and want to take care of it. My goal for myself is always to appreciate what my body can do, and be thankful for what my body can do!

Me and my awesome kids after my first half-marathon.
My body has run many miles in the past 5 ½ years, including three half-marathons! I’m hoping next year to complete a full marathon, and run even farther than this year. Without running, I am terrified of where I would be today; I can’t imagine life without running! I am very passionate about getting girls (and boys) the help they need to overcome eating disorders, which is one of the reasons I love Girls on the Run so much. It gives girls so much confidence in themselves! I wish it had been around when I was younger, but am so happy to be a part of it now as a coach! 

Girls on the Run!

Girls on the Run!

I just wanted to let you all know that if you’re struggling with this, or know someone who is, you’re not alone! Eating disorders happen in all walks of life. I was 24 when mine started! I am so thankful to my family and my running community for helping me succeed and love myself. Keep running, everyone. Keep encouraging one another. You’re all the best!

Want to get to know Jillian better? Check out her "Runfie" questions!
What brought you to DRC? I saw that a high school friend of mine, Tony McDuffie, posted his run on The Daily Run Club via Facebook. I immediately joined!!

Favorite shoes? How many pairs of running shoes do you have? Well, for the first four years of my running, I wore New Balance running shoes. Nothing fancy, just the cheapest, good running shoes I could find. Last year, my husband suggested I try Asics, so I bought a pair and I love them! They are so cushiony! I only ever have two pair. I know, I know... Once I get a new pair, my older pair gets to be my "around the house/mud" pair. Then I donate my older older shoes. I don't like a lot of clutter.

Do you have a dream race? Hmmm... dream race. I would love to run in a Disney race just because I've loved Disney since I was teeny tiny.  I still love Disney & watch all the movies with my kiddos when I get the chance!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Dartfish: Gait Analysis

By Jill Berron

 I am admittedly a nerd—I love reading, numbers and data. When I can combine that with running…even better! That’s why I was so excited to take advantage of the opportunity to have a Dartfish Analysis done by our very own Elena and Emily at Athletico.

Emily started me off with a five minute warm up on a stationary bike before moving into a dynamic warm up, which was a mini workout in itself! It included skipping forward and backward (surprisingly, not as hard as it sounds), side shuffles, several lunge variations and leg swings, among other exercises. She then had me do a few static exercises, such as twists, squats and lunges to ensure that my feet pronate and supinate properly. 

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My warm-up checklist!

After that, she did a variety of muscle tests in which she pushed and pulled on my legs (and had me resist her motions) in a variety of positions to check for strength on both the right and left sides, identify imbalances and check flexibility. These deficits and imbalances can cause a collapse in the kinetic chain, which stresses tissues and can lead to injury over time and mileage increases.

Next, it was onto the treadmill!  After establishing a comfortable pace, Elena recorded me running from behind and each side for a few minutes. She then pulled up the video in the Dartfish software to begin the analysis. The nerd in me was absolutely fascinated by this part. She was able to move through the video frame by frame to pause on certain points in my stride to evaluate.  She looked at my form at initial contact, midstance (the “bottom” of my stride) and pushoff from each angle. The first thing she looked at was the rear angle: she used the software to draw a straight line down my backbone and played the video to see if I bend my trunk to either side, if my feet cross midline or if my knees move medially or laterally while running. She also drew a horizontal line across my hips to see if my hips drop as my foot lands and looked at the angle of my ankles in midstance to check for pronation or supination.

After that, we moved to the side views.  From the three different positions in the gait cycle, she used the software to draw angles on my legs and joints. She measured a variety of different angles, such as footstrike, the angle of the knee as the foot contacts the ground (too straight and it can cause extra stress on the shin and knee) and at midstride (does it go past my toe), body alignment (do I lean forward at the hips or the ankles) and vertical excursion (how high do I bounce when I run).

When the analysis was concluded, Elena and Emily put their respective results together and were able to point out my deficiencies and suggest exercises to improve them. So here’s how my results came out.  On the positive side (i.e. I do not need to work to correct this stuff):  I do not twist or bend my trunk or cross centerline with my feet;  my knees move mildly medial; I have a rearfoot strike (less than a 10% angle when my feet contact the ground); the angle of my knees as I land is good and they do not move past my toe in midstride; I lean forward from the ankles and not the hips.

Here’s what I need to work on and their suggestions on how to correct it: my hips drop as my feet land so I need to do lateral planks and clam shells to work on hip strength. This weakness can cause IT band issues, among other problems. I have a mild overpronation on both feet, which I can help mediate with arch cupping exercises.  I have a moderate vertical excursion—the distance that I move up and down over the course of my stride. Basically, I have a little too much bounce when I run, which is a waste of energy and places unnecessary extra  stress on the joints. In order to reduce this, Elena recommended that I increase my cadence (step rate) by about 5%. She suggested using a metronome app or Rock My Run, which selects songs with a beat the same as your target cadence.

Emily’s muscle testing coincided with Elena’s video analysis results. I’ve had IT band pain in the past which correlates with my pelvis tilt. Emily also noted a weakness in my hip abductors, which goes along with that pelvis tilt. She said that I have great toe motion, which correlates with my ability to toe off correctly during my running gait and that assists in supination of the foot for a good push off.

I asked Emily and Elena if there was anything else that they wanted people to know about the analysis process. They said that their goal is to evaluate any strength deficits and muscular imbalances that might cause a collapse in the kinetic chain. They want to help make up more efficient runners and avoid injury. If a runner has a repetitive injury, they want to identify the cause and not treat the symptoms (i.e. shin pain is the “victim” but narrow running style could be the culprit). They can also evaluate your footwear and offer shoe prescriptions. I know several of the other runners brought in multiple pairs of shoes so Elena could evaluate them in different types of footwear.

Over the last few weeks, I've really been focusing on cadence and I can't say for sure if it's that our the change in the weather, but I've seen a definite improvement in my pace. I'm also working in the other exercises about 3x per week. I haven't noticed a great difference in my running from doing them,but I can definitely tell I'm getting stronger because they're getting easier for me.

Overall, the Dartfish analysis was awesome. Elena and Emily really understand what we go through as runners, unlike some doctors who just advise you to “stop running for a few weeks and take some ibuprofen.”  (Yes, I’ve actually paid money for that prescription a few times.) The evaluation offers practical advice and I would absolutely recommend it to any runner, whether or not you have pain.  It’s a great tool to help keep us healthy and doing what we love!

You can contact Athletico at 636-239-9979 (Washington) or 314-781-0679 (Brentwood). Emily’s email is and Elena’s is

Want to get to know Jill better? Check out her Runfie Questions!
What brought you to DRC? I saw a friend posting to DRC on Facebook (before the group was public) and I needed some motivation and accountability. I was really just getting started and wanted a place to ask questions and learn a little bit.
How long have you been a runner? After a few failed attempts to start, I've been running consistently for about 2 1/2 years.
What is your favorite running quote? I have two favorite running quotes! "It's very hard to understand in the beginning that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants to quit." -George Sheehan