Recently Randall Cooper sat down with Emma Kirk-Odunubi @emmakirkyo, English Runner, Running Coach and Strength & Conditioning Coach. Emma has had years of practice both running herself and being there to help others succeed too. With an incredible insight from Emma, they discuss all things running; from injury prevention, movement efficiency to skincare.
Watch the whole interview here to also hear them discuss how to choose the right shoes for you.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT?
One thing you’ve got a special interest in is running analysis and running gait. With some of your clients and the people you run with, what do you look for, good or bad?
Injury is a massive one. With a client, if they’re injured or feeling pain that’s the first thing to address. There are so many people out there with so many different body shapes and functions, you can't always see something and assume that that is what is wrong. Human nature always wants to be like, oh that’s not straight or that's not in alignment and that's not right. But then you can fall into a trap where you try and fix something to make it be inline but actually there's not really an issue in the first place. For me, that's why discussing pain is a huge indicator if something's right or wrong.
Sometimes there’s a philosophy with running coaches, and podiatrists: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sometimes you could see someone who's horribly pronated or horribly superinated, but if they've been running for 20 years without problems, then maybe the thing is just to leave it alone.
I totally agree with that. I’ve seen so many people that are on the extremes of how their movement patterns are, and you're like surely that must be hurting you, but they’re fine. It’s always a learning process.
WHAT IS REASONABLE PAIN?
You mentioned pain before, and I'm interested in this one as well, because again, there's a philosophy that you can't run with any type of pain. But runners are running with pain all the time. How do you distinguish what is a reasonable pain?
For me, it's the intensity of it, and the sharpness of the pain. If something is a dull ache, you’re at a hard point of a race, then it disappears, that's probably just you and just your mental space and your body's moving all over the shop.
On the other hand, you've then got some times where, and this has happened to me, you have a dull ache over a period of time. I get it looked at and it ends up being a stress fracture. It’s all just about understanding, and I think it’s something we’ve learned in the last couple of years to be very tuned in to our bodies and what we feel.
So experience is really important, it’s the repetitiveness of discomfort or pain. Just learning to listen to your body.
I love that word experience, people do become more attuned with their body, and with what is a good pain and a bad pain. Clearly as a physio if people come in to see me, it’s for me to make a guess on whether it's a good pain or a bad pain, but when you've been working with athletes for a long time, sometimes you will trust athletes to say, It's sore, but I'm going to be okay. But other times you think you’ve got no idea! I think you're exactly right- one size doesn't fit all.
Let’s talk about movement efficiency, you see people and they may have a nice foot position and be nice and strong, but their technique is really heavy and slow. And they're not lifting their knees up. So it’s not about only preventing injury, it’s actually improving performance too.
What are the key things that you look for in a person's running gait to make sure that they're more efficient with the way they do it?
Yeah, great question. I think for me, there's two things which always come to mind.
The first one is one that people don't think about a lot and that's the big toe function. The big toe joint is one of the biggest important joints, even though it's small, we use it to help us propel forwards. It determines how the foot drives off the ground. It’s always on a spectrum. I will usually see either you've got people that have extremely hypermobile big toes and then you've got the other end where they're just super, super stiff.
Being able to analyze and see that straight away is so important, because with either end of the spectrum the person is going to avoid using the toe, either by twisting, or lifting off it. For so many injuries - hip problems, knee problems, shin splints, the big toe joint is like the go-to for me.
The next thing I then talk about is circumduction when people run. So as they’re driving through the foot, what they end up doing is pulling around the leg and then rotating their leg back in. That rotation back in means that when they then land back on the ground, all the forces are coming across the body. That's where you can get more stress on the knees, the hips, and the ankles.
They're the two things that I will always look at.
Yeah, that's excellent. I think your point on the big toe is just spot on. I know I've had so many athletes that have been injured because that first MTP is just not mobile enough.
The circumduction is a key one as well. I'll just add the a
nkle into that as well, because sometimes the ankle can get quite stiff. If the ankle is flexing and dorsiflexing enough, then you can get problems right up the chain as well.
RUNNING INTO WINTER
Now we're coming into winter and the UK and that can bring a number of issues. It can be harder to maintain motivation for runners in the winter. How do you keep on track with training, when you have to run in the dark and it’s cold?
I think the key one for me is a form of routine. For everything, I always lay my kit out the night before, so as soon as I get up, it’s the first thing I see. Building that routine in the night before is big for me, and just keeping up and honing in on the consistency.
For me, in winter I give myself a break from running outside, and I’m kinder to myself. I’ve managed to put my kit on so if I don’t decide to do the full long run, I’ll do half an hour instead. And I’ve still done something, I’ve still made the attempt
and effort to run.
It’s very hard to keep pushing the whole time. And my favourite thing to do, is I just book a race, so I have to be held accountable. I want to be working towards that goal now.
They're all excellent tips. The other thing that occasionally, I would say to some of my patients and clients would be. Utilize the time differently. If you’ve got a weakness it’s time to improve on, or your flexibility or stability. Maybe we can do two or three sessions a week in the gym at lunchtime and you’ll come back a better athlete.
Let’s talk about skin. I'm interested in some of the problems that you've had or some of your clients have had with skin issues.
With running over the years, we always think about injury and problems being muscular or tendon or bone stresses and that type of thing we forget that the skin can get injured as well.
My marathon days are over for now, but a few years ago I ran like 5 marathons in about two years and my skin really suffered during that time. Luckily with my foot knowledge I didn’t get too many blisters but I did chafe. I chafed on my arms, and also my chest. Once you get the heat and the friction, the chafe comes.
Another one I found a lot more at winter time when you’re running in the cold, rain and hail, is I get lots more oiliness in my skin, especially in my face. So it was trying to work out if I needed to put anything on my face? It was just going to get oily. Those are my two key things that the weather plays a wonderful role in.
I think it's an interesting statistic that the number one reason for people attending the medical tents and John's tent at the London marathon is chafing and blisters. It happens a lot. And, it's not only chafing, it's exposure to the elements.
As far as trying to eliminate chafing, we’ve got our Anti Friction Balm, I’m interested in how you use that product?
A key thing for me, as I mentioned is my arms, so literally just applying it before I head out the door. Before the skin has had any sort of mass amount of friction and then the friction comes between the substance that you're using rather than between the skin itself.
Also when we get the occasional sun in the UK, I want to be able to choose to run in shorts. I think it's something, especially for women, that they just don't wear shorts, because of feeling self-conscious but also because of the chafe they get between their legs. It’s made a huge difference, feeling comfortable wearing what I was wearing and knowing I wasn't going to get the repercussions later on. It sounds corny, but it genuinely makes you feel more confident.
Also I love to use the sunscreen, before I knew about you guys I was using traditional sunscreen and I was training with it and I was like, why am I profusely sweating? After I used it in my training I finally wasn’t sweating buckets, it was amazing that your solution wasn’t clogging my pores like other sunscreens.
You're not making that up by the way, there have been actual studies that have looked at different sunscreens and what they found was when people use the mineral based oily kind of sunscreen, it inhibits sweat production to the same extent as an antiperspirant.
Yes, totally, and I’ll never forget how horrendous I felt after my session. I literally just felt so dehydrated. I realised the only thing it could be was the sunscreen I was using. I was almost overheating by using my previous sunscreen, so now I am sold. It’s changed my life and I won’t use another one now.
And you made a nice point about our AFB, it’s a comment we get a lot. People will say I have run in tights for years. And it's great during winter because I need it, but I tried your product and I put it between my thighs. Now I run in shorts and I feel liberated. I just felt free and easy and cooling obviously as well, because you're not
sweating into fabric.
That's where people can kind of get chafing issues, not only in tights, but also around bras straps and chest straps. So I think that's an important consideration too, For anyone who's not so protected in that area, you know, the anti friction balm is something that can come in quite handy.
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