Running - Physics vs Feel part 1........


I've written previously about the benefits efficient running technique in endurance events, but my thoughts today rest on the best way to understand this practice?


Is it better to understand running by delving into the basic physics of the movement to gain insight on how to achieve efficiency or should we use cues and analogies to understand the feel of the correct movement. I've recently been working with this  dilemma in my swimming and try here to share my insights on running.

It's common knowledge that stride length x stride frequency = speed, but how to put this into practice? If we can teach athletes to efficiently increase their stride frequency (rate) with an optimal and efficient stride length the possibilities, if reinforced to become more automated movements can be big.

Physics? Feel? Or both? Which way would help you?

The Basic Physics  - understanding not just what you have to, but why you should try to do it resonates with some athletes more, I like to think of this as intelligent running. Take the photo below, What does physics tell us this about the two different stride techniques and what can we take from it?

Q: Which athlete do you think will have the most momentum after their foot impacts with the ground?

2010 Rev 3 Quassy
2010 Rev 3 Quassy

When it boils down to it, although these are both top athletes, physics shows us that the athlete leading is bound to be wasting less energy and utilising his momentum.

When an athlete's lead foot hits the ground their muscular force (MF) from this leg is going to be applied in the direction the leg is moving, in return the ground reaction force (GRF) is moving in the opposite direction to the muscular force being applied. The result is that the second athlete who is heel striking and who's foot is landing in front of his body has a large amount of GRF going against his bodies' momentum, acting as a brake! Whereas the lead athlete who is mid foot running with a shorter stride will hit the ground when his body is over or slightly in front of his lead foot causing the GRF to have less of a negative affect on his forward movement.

Lesson: We want to maximise horizontal motion by trying to put our body in a position where MF and GRF can help maintain our momentum.

If this sits as a problem for you, try to slightly decrease your stride length, this will increase your stride frequency and more often that not, puts your body's centre of gravity over your lead foot when landing, maximizing your forward movement.

It's important with mid foot running is to make sure you are in a comfortable shoe, suited to this running style, my go to training shoe is the Saucony Mirage! It provides a touch of natural guidance for those who have mild pronation, but is great for neutral runners.

Look out for part 2 on The Feel of Running .....................