I was blissfully unaware of my weaknesses until the Saucony Stride Lab App opened my eyes. This analysis tool for runners breaks down strengths and weaknesses in a pretty pentagon, showing you where you need to spend time building muscle or loosening ligaments. It shows you exactly what the problems are, and therein lies the rub.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Taking a deeper look at how your body works as a runner, noticing where you are strong and where you could use improvement might feel like you are on the road to becoming the next Kara Goucher. However, it’s also like going to the doctor when you have a niggling pain somewhere…you might get a diagnosis you don’t like.
An honest evaluation on the Body Work side yields 4-5 exercises that are challenging, uncomfortable, or just plain hurt. The Stride Lab section might reveal hip dropping or hunching over, which will make you question how every muscle activates on every run.
Case in point, and I’m not making this up…the “Chair of Death Squats.” Seriously, this is what the app calls them. I mean, they are aptly named, but really? Standing in front of a chair, you line your feet up with the foot of the chair. You hold a broom handle along your spine with both hands, then squat. Your knees shouldn’t touch the chair in front of you. Now do that 30 times.
What does this do? Glute activation. Reminds you that you have a butt.
Other exercises include bridges, lunges, squats, calf raises, and one legged-stance work — everything we as runners just don’t like doing.
The most amazing thing about this app, though? If you are consistently using it, it works. If you perform the analysis right (which is not always easy), you have a collection of exercises that, when done frequently, will strengthen your weaknesses. You will become more efficient as a runner. Efficiency means you don’t have to work as hard. Your average heart rate goes down, your body can run faster and longer. This is a great thing for anyone, but for me firmly rooted in the middle of the pack, I have seen significant performance gains.
The thing about these exercises though is that they feel more like Physical Therapy than your typical strength training workout. It’s as if the App looks into your future and points out areas that could lead you to injury if left unchecked. Like a pre-emptive strike, the app helps you identify those areas needing attention.
After the 3 analyses — Body Work, Stride Analysis, and Aches & Pains — you get 20-30 minutes of exercises to work on after your runs, and some drills to do occasionally during your runs. If all you do is run…you don’t cross/strength train…this is probably the best place to start adding in some strength building. If you do already cross train, this might give you a few more exercises you didn’t know you needed (or if you are like me you just avoided altogether).
Do I do these exercises all the time? Honestly, no, but for a while I was performing these exercises several times a week, and I am more in tune with my form as I run. I have noticed improvement, and that is showing itself in the graphic results.
This app is a great place to start for those of us who constantly experience pain or discomfort, who are repeatedly sidelined by injury (although it should not take the place of medical diagnosis), or who just want to get better at running so we can enjoy the sport more. It’s one more tool in the box.