People

HELEN HALL’S BIOMECHANICAL ANALYSIS TO EFFICIENT RUNNING

written by Vasileia Fanarioti

HELEN HALL'S BIOMECHANICAL ANALYSIS TO EFFICIENT RUNNING

What does the development of human movement have to do with piecing legos together? According to Helen Hall, everything. Helen is a biomechanics analyst, minimalist ultra-distance runner and 8 times Ironman and is credited with being the world's first ‘barefoot' Iron(wo)man. She is the author of ‘Even With Your Shoes On’, and the owner of the Perpetual Forward Motion School of Efficient Running, among a long list of other things

Her passion for biomechanically efficient motion has led her to develop a series of workshops, teaching people about the importance of movement analysis. With the help of advanced gait analysis technology, Helen is able to break down movement and understand pain, creating solutions that enable people to move better and pain-free. She runs an injury clinic where she uses this technology to help people from all walks of life, from those with joint pain and elite athletes.

So, why legos? Helen believes that our movement development is a lot like piecing together a lego structure. In order to build a stable and strong structure, each piece needs to be in the right place and connected correctly. The same goes for our movement; each joint needs to be moving correctly and in the right sequence in order to create efficient movement development.

“We are movement animals just like any other mammal. Our bodies are complete, communicative units and everything is connected. If one piece of lego is out of place, the whole structure is compromised. The same goes for our movement; if one joint is not moving correctly, it will have a knock-on effect on a different part of the body."

While it might sound logical, society has not taught us to look at the bigger picture when it comes to injuries and pain. We are often told to focus on the site of pain, when in reality, the problem might be stemming from somewhere else entirely. "Say you have a knee issue, you are likely to visit a knee specialist who will focus on that area. But that person might not be looking at the ankle, which is on the other end of the same bone. Today's society rewards by specialization, but that limits our ability to see the whole picture. We need to start thinking about movement as a whole, not just individual parts.”

Helen's approach is to look at the whole body. She asks her clients for as thorough a history as they can give her, not just of their current injury, but of any pain or injuries they have had in the past, no matter how far back. But it's not just about injuries. "I have had people come to me and tell me they have never crawled. It's not just about pain, it's about movement patterns and how we have developed them over time"

To objectively measure joint movement, Helen uses the world’s most advanced gait analysis tech in the world, DORIS (Dynamic Oriented Rehabilitative Integrated System). There are only four of these machines in the world and Helen has one in her clinic in the UK. In a field such as this one, a lot of professionals say a lot of different things, backed up by research that might be skewed. Helen's use of this technology allows her to get an unbiased, accurate measurement of her client's movement.

"I try to stick to things that make sense. If something doesn't make sense, then I can’t find the piece in the jigsaw puzzle of movement. DORIS helps me challenge my learnings and my understandings and it has helped me fine tune what I do." For Helen, it’s all about the forward progress, the forward motion, to give people hope. A common misconception that is often validated by doctors is that our age determines how much we can do. Many people accept pain as a natural part of the aging process, but Helen doesn't believe that to be true.

“If your hair is still growing, your nails are still growing, then your body is still repairing. So what is in the way of you getting better? People who are younger than me have been told "you are getting old, you just have to live with this" and they accept it. I am 58 years old and I am getting better and better every day. Just because initial lego play happens whilst we’re very young, does not mean the young have the monopoly on it."

Helen believes that if we could go back to movement feeling good, then this will lead to organized movement. We will discover patterns on which we can build strength and we will start fulfilling our human movement potential. The key is to start rethinking the way we currently approach movement and pain. Perhaps it is time we go look for those missing legos.