Andrew Stemler is an obsessed student of running form and of the various techniques currently circulating the fitness world .

 The reality is that you need to understand all the techniques to properly compare and contrast them: sometimes, pure sport science has helped us , other times it has hindered.

 What is very obvious is that the recent trend in clumpy "sprung" running shoes has not had the effect suggested by the marketing.... after all, the manufacturers never said their flashy shoes would be good for you. 

Andrew has studied with Lee Saxby ( POSE coach level 4) and is the preferred strength and conditioning coach to several good standard amateur runners.

 "in many cases, its probably better to begin with walking than it is with running. Sure its about proper foot placement, but its equally about your body position. One without the other will not really work".

 "Im a great fan of old style running, and I believe there is a lot to learn from the older running coaches My work with runners is complemented by my on-going sport science studies at the University of East London, and its useful to be part of a group of sport scientists actively promoting real understanding"  

It does help if you understand that there is a Hierarchy of Forces in Movement

The hierarchy is :

Gravity

Ground Reaction

Elasticity

Muscle action

 

If you want some help on running style, please drop me an email Andrew@crossfitlondonuk.com

I'm delighted to announce the 1st of our skill sessions for our members and, (in this case ) outside visitors.

We hope to hold a monthly running seminar where you can learn and/or refresh your POSE running technique, learn valuable injury prevention/treatment ideas and meet other open and willing to share runners. Hopefully this will help us learn and compare Crossfit endurance scheduling techniques with other  established regimes. The important thing is to finding out what really work for you,  not just listening to the spin that magazines and websites (including ours) put on protocols.

People have been running for thousands of years and the libraries have accumulated a lot of information. all of which needs to be respectfully assessed and factored, either in or out. Equally, well-meaning journalists have been peddling the schedules of the elite to novice beginners . Its time to create the support network you need to get you running well.

We will also focus on running specific drills and exercises that, allegedly, are "guaranteed" to boost your running performance through the roof.  We have a clutch of sport scientists and students  on our team anxious to share the research, evaluate performance and point out that correlation does not imply causation and  that  the plural of anecdote is not data.

We also have former Marines, over 50′s, sub 3 hour marathon runners, former sub-50 second 400m runners.

 The next  event features  special guest speaker the  ultra runner (and occasional Crossfitter)  Emily Gelder (look up her  Profile here) who will share some of her training, recovery and food ideas ( and answer most questions). we are also delighted to have Andrew Burton from Inov8 or as the advert says.......

 A three hour reps accredited masterclass, featuring endurance running superstar, Emily Gelder, Andrew Burton from Inov-8 (the footwear that crossfitters seem to love), and a gang of physical and massage therapists ready and able to give you the skills you need to cure your injuries, and keep you running.

In addition to our guest speakers, there will be running orientated strength exercises to learn, an introduction to the POSE method, and up-to-date sport science tips to help you run the best you can.

£30

 The event is from 2 to 5 9 Malcolm Place E2 0EU. Bethnal green station is 2 minutes away. Don't bring a car. Run, tube, bus or cycle. more details here

 

This will be part lecture, part discussion, part practical. Come prepared to learn and share.

 

BLEEP TEST

But, no doubt you are looking for a bit of training advise, or a tip to boost your performance., now!  Well, speaking from a physiological perspective, slip in  a bleep test once a week . Theres nothing like really pushing yourself.

The multi stage fitness test, also known as the bleep test and MSST, was designed by Leger and Lambert(1982) to assess the VO2 max of participants based on performance in a continuous, pace regulated, shuttle run between two points 20 m apart.  The subjects are health checked and  informed consent given (ACSM, 2005). The participant's are lined up between two lines 20 m apart and are asked to reach the opposite line before a bleep sounds. The bleeps increase at  preset stages and controls the pace of  work (Brewer, 2002). The test is maximal in that it requires the participants Ithats you by the way) to work to the point of exhaustion. Participants are withdrawn from the test when they fail, on two consecutive attempts, to complete the shuttle within the time allowed

The test is generally accepted as valid and reliable to the extent that is being considered by government as a standard test  for schools to assess the fitness of school children (CMO, 2009).

In  pilot  trials 92 participants were  tested  against V02 max assessed via  retro-extrapolation (Leger and Lambert, 1982), although only  25 performed the run twice.  However, Ramsbottom, et al., (1988) re-validated the test by direct  measurement of  the  VO2max of  74 volunteers with a correlation of  0.92. This can be seen as reliable  a study needs more than  50 study participants, although 3 trials  are preferred (Hopkins, 2000) However, Ramsbottom, et al., (1988)  achieved  this  correlation  among a  homogeneous populations. This further validates the test as it is easier to improve correlations by using a heterogeneous population ( Atkinson and Nevill, 2001, Bonen et al., 1979)

Within the fitness and coaching community there are those who distrust VO2 max measurement for sporting use. Noakes, et al., (1990 et al) found VO2 max to be  a poor predictor of race times: others can be  confused by the abstract  nature of the VO2max figure. In the  MSST, the levels achieved in the  test can form a fitness currency and for that matter the British  marines and police force set bleep test standards (Brewer, 2002).

As the levels achieved can also be related to a running velocity. the test  is further supported by  McLaughlin, et al., (2010),  who established that the velocity at vo2max  correlated well with  distance running and a "classic" endurance model, taking into account VO2max, %vo2max, lactate threshold and running economy. The MSST   correlates well with  5k race times (Ramsbottom, et al., 1988)  and 10k times  (Paliczka, et al., 1987).

The test is ideal for team training where the sport is running based, as  tests need to be sports specific (Lemmink, 2004). Many people can be tested at the same time with minimal equipment,  and the subjects require motivation  and encouragement which  team members could  supply . The test has been validated  for both sexes as individuals  or in groups.(Leger and Lambert, 1980)

For non athletes or special populations this test does carry very public  connotations of success  and failure. It is a maximal test so unsuitable for many special populations (ACSM, 2005), and can be subject to audibility.

Safety in training is a consistent concern . Gardner (2002) identifies the major cause of exercise related deaths in the US military to be related to atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, and the failure of screening procedures to exclude those suffering from ACAD. The increasing age of the participants was also flagged . Gardner (2002) suggests that vigorous exercise tests need to be conducted where immediate advanced life support measures are available. But Babraj ,et al., (2009) shows high intensity can be used  even with medical populations.

As this is a maximal test, it can have  a developmental training  effect, which is an extra when training time is scarce. The test supplies an easily recordable benchmark.

Apart from direct measurement, the Cooper run test, which is the amount of distance covered in a 12 minute run seems the most viable alternative.However, the  Cooper  test is maximal from the start and has been criticised by Williamson and Hamley (1984)  as it relies on motivation and self pacing skills and the results could be partly attributed to  anaerobic systems. it calls for a bigger running area, which could mean it needs to be staged out doors and could be  subject to the weather. Nevertheless it has an athletic component resulting in a real world effort. The suggestion being that both these tests are more suitable for athletic populations.

 BUT,  SHOULD YOUR KIDS BLEEP???

Andrew Stemler from Crossfit London UK, debates the controversial recommendation by  Sir Liam Donaldson The Chief Medical Officer to bring the "bleep test" into all schools

According to fitness geeks, the bleep test developed by Leger & Lambert is quite fun, and a useful exercise tool in its own right. The test is pretty much established as both reliable and easy to stage, and is used by schools, clubs, some emergency services and armed forces to determine fitness levels. All you need is this: some stolen road traffic cones placed 20m apart, a million-pound sports hall, or park with not too many potholes/muggers/paedophiles - and a sound system loud enough to hear a "bleep" over the wheezing of other children (or adults and motivators).

Victims run between markers while the bleep intervals become shorter and shorter. The longer they continue, the higher the level they reach (like a very interactive computer game) the fitter they are. For comparison, here are some of the standards that some organisations use.

Royal Marines, 11

British army 10.2

English police force 5.4

Fire brigade 9.6


If (like grant-greedy sports scientists) you get swept away by extrapolation, it is possible to conclude that the test is to monitor the development of the athlete's maximum oxygen uptake - the infamous vO2 max. Back in the real world, the results can be used to predict (sort of) future performance (through correlation rather than causation), indicate weaknesses, measure improvement, assess the effectiveness of training programmes and motivate participants.

However, this shy test, beloved by generations of rugby players, runners, police recruits, (and hated by just about everyone else) has been pushed into the limelight and has now been proposed by the Chief Medical Officer (in the 2009 Annual Report of the Chief  Medical Officer) for mass introduction to schools. It is based, as you might have  guessed, on a Californian experiment which brought an 8.2% improvement in fitness. In spite of the fact that the benefits of improving fitness in children lowers the lifetime risk of various nasty diseases, builds an active habit, leads to better educational standards, helps maintain a healthy weight and improves mental and social well being - some commentators are up in arms.

It is quite true that running  back and forth can be boring - but so is most of life. But isn't this part of the real lesson - it doesn't have to be fun to be fun?

However, the more convincing criticism is that the overweight kids get to a few levels, give up, and are, of course, put off exercise for life. The average kids get to do a few more levels, and give up. The super-competitive kids work really hard and collapse:

This negative overview overlooks the benefits of properly constructed sports and team training.

This not a test scored by a teacher. Trying to score 30 kids is a near impossible task. Each child needs their own (child) scorer, and ideally their own (child) motivator. So, for a class of 30 everyone gets to score and motivate and run. Hmm, recording and motivating others, that's a good lesson. And who gets the prize for being the most enthusiastic motivator? Who gets the prize for stealing the traffic cones?

The future tests - well if the poor, fat kid got to level 2, they get a whopping 100% improvement and a "Good job!" when they get to level 4. Then you can be really crafty - you can match up the super-performer with the "fat kid" as a team, and score improvement. The reality is that it will be the overweight child who will get the points.

All tests can be driven into the ground and turned into abusive and awful experiences. The reality is that the better coach or trainer is quite capable of making even the toughest test  "fun",  although in honesty, based on my own experience, most PE teachers are genetically incapable of importing fun into the serious business of "fitness".

 

FOOTWEAR?

What to wear to run in, look good in, screw your Achilles in...

FANCY A PAIR OF VIBRAM FIVE FINGERS?

FANCY A WHOPPING 5% Off?

Get AN AMAZING 5% discount as a reader of the Crossfit London UK site.

visit www.primallifestyle.com

and use this discount code crossfit5f

 

Five fingers footwear for functional feet

Vibrams

When a new (or some may say very old) concept comes along, it is often met with scepticism and resistance. The barefoot revolution, however, would seem to be an exception to the rule.

Training barefoot has been advocated by many of the leading thinkers in the strength and conditioning industry (Chek 2001, Yessis 1999, McGill 2002), in the running industry (McDougall 2009) and in the rehabilitation sector (Liebenson 2007, Beach 2008, Oschman 2008, Chek 2001, Janda 2007, 1999, Wallden 2008). Nevertheless, there may be those who still maintain an air of concern - after all, we've been conditioned to believe that running on hard surfaces requires a cushioned sole; and that an arch needs support under it or it will collapse.

Yet any barefoot runner or gait lab assistant will be able to tell you something very different about the cushioning; just as an architect will be able to tell you something very different about the arch support.

For many years it has been well known that running barefoot is more efficient than running in a pair of running shoes or 'shod' (Warburton 1999). More recently, running in a minimalist shoe known as Fivefingers has been identified, similarly, as better than running shod (Squadrone & Gallozzi 2009). However, something intriguing happened in that research study.

To this point, it has always been assumed that the decreased efficiency of walking or running shod (versus barefoot) is down the added weight of a shoe at the end of a very long and swinging lever; the leg. Yet, in the study comparing Fivefingers footwear with barefoot and with running shoes, it was predictably the running shoes that were least efficient (higher oxygen consumption), the barefoot that was second and wearing Fivefingers was, confusingly, the most efficient (Squadrone & Gallozzi 2009).

Why this result came about needs further investigation; perhaps it was to do with the increased grip the Fivefingers offered over barefoot. Certainly it would seem the weight (a modest 6 ounces per shoe) didn't affect efficiency detrimentally. But why is barefoot, and now Fivefingers, more efficient than shod running (Squadrone & Gallozzi 2009)?

The answer is probably complex, however, there are several clues the biomechanics offer us.

First, going barefoot or barefoot equivalent, results in an increased angle at the ankle joint (ie more plantar flexion) during running, which results in more of forefoot/midfoot strike.

Runners in shoes typically heel strike.

The former is associated with lower joint torques and greater leg stiffness (DeWit et al 2000) a factor which means less energy from the ground reaction force is lost and hence can be utilised in forward propulsion.

Additionally, the ability to use the toes through their full range of motion (allowing at least 65 degrees of extension) means that the windlass mechanism is a means by which energy is stored and then released by the plantar fascia and can be actively engaged, something that running shoes may inhibit.

For more information on Vibram Fivefingers, please go to www.primallifestyle.com

References

 

Beach P (2008) Contractile fields: a new model of human movement. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies. 2002 12:80 Chek P (2001) Scientific Core Conditioning. 2 day seminar. Maidenhead, UK.

DeWit B, Clercg D, Aerts P. (2000) Biomechanical analysis of the stance phase during barefoot and shod running. J Biomech 2000 Mar;33(3):269-78

Janda V (2007) Sensory Motor Stimulation, in Liebenson: Rehabilitation of the Spine. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins pp513:530 Liebenson, C (2007) Rehabilitation of the Spine. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins McDougall C (2009) Born to run. Profile books pp168-183

McGill S (2002) Low back disorders. Human Kinetics. Oschman J (2008) Charge transfer in the living matrix. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies 13 215-228

Squadrone R, Gallozzi C. (2009) Biomechanical and physiological comparison of barefoot and two shod conditions in experienced barefoot runners. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2009 Mar;49(1):6-13

Wallden M (2008) Rehabilitation and movement re-education, in Chaitow: Naturopathic Physical Medicine.

Elsevier. Warburton M. (2001) Barefoot running. Sportscience 5(3), sportsci.org , 2001 Yessis M (2000). Explosive running. Illinois, USA. Contemporary Books

 I do have to put a big warning here and say that if you run "normally" ie in  a bad and naughty heel striking way, or with  a forward reaching  ball of the foot strike, you need to change your mechanics, before you start wearing your vibrams

 

The Barefoot Journey…oochie, ouchie!
Barefoot Running: sorting the problems Part 1. Achilles Tendinosis
Running, pose, Chi, Barefoot , Biomechanics and stuff
Barefoot: some pathways
Barefoot Journey…nice to have alternatives…well, possibly!

A lot of my work, because Im 50, tends to be with Master Athletes, ie those over 35.Sometimes its difficult to compare times with younger people.

 

 

The Crossfit London HQ
and training venue is

Unit 9
Malcolm Place
Bethnal Green,
London
E2 0EU

for more details

www.crossfitlondonuk.com

 

Exercise-related transient abdominal pain" Opps, I've got a running stitch.

For those of you who enjoy a bit of science while suffering should read  MORTON, D. P., and R. CALLISTER. Characteristics and Etiology of exercise-related transient abdominal pain. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 432-438. Its as good a place as any to begin to get up to date with what causes the stitch. Obviously you need to clarify what you are talking about . Its that sharp abdominal pain that some people get while being active. Not an aspect of needle work. (BTW ETP=  exercise-related transient abdominal pain)

This study issued a questionnaire to different types of sports people and asked them about the stitch ETAP appears to be most prevalent in activities that involve repetitive torso movement, whether " vertical translation or longitudinal rotation". Its normally  a local pain  mostly experienced in lumbar regions of the abdomen. Some  unlikely people also also experience "shoulder tip pain" (STP) too, famously known as the  diaphragmatic-referral  site, suggesting a miffed diaphragm

Note. No one has actually done anything in this report. They havent got runers, held them down and cut them open, or ultra sounded them, or poked them with sharp sticks. All they did was to ask some people if they have had it.  Thats not being a scientist, that being a pollster and a gossip

Conclusions:   This gives "perspective" to suggested etiologies of ETAP, which include diaphragmatic ischemia and stress on the visceral ligaments, and suggest we should be looking at other causes  such as cramp of the "musculature and irritation of the parietal peritoneum" ( who knew)

Interesting to note that the condition that is mostly associated with runners, is suffered through all sports. Its merely that runners whine more.

And the cure, after all this science?…. "factors that provoke and techniques that relieve ETAP, are not well understood" ( All that money, all those surveys, for this. Fu@%ers)

Several causes "theories"  make the rounds in gyms ;ischemia of the diaphragm and   stress on the visceral ligaments  have gained the most credibility. Im surprised my theory about irritated pixies hasn't got more coverage. "Further examination of the characteristics of ETAP and the stimuli that provoke it may be beneficial for evaluating the integrity of these and other theories". Oh, and guess what, more studies, funded by the tax payer is some secret roundabout sort of way, is needed. Oh yeh!

With my Therapist and Crossfit hat on, it was interesting to note that rotational movement through the torso played a part.  A lot of what we try and achieve  at Crossfit is to maintain a solid "core" which acts as an anchor for the limb to swirl about. We train you to use your legs to Deadlift, while keeping your  torso "locked down".

Clinically we have noticed a tendency among aerobic athletes, when they come to us, to be unable to initiate a leg movement without a body movement. ( If they swing a leg it begins from the lower back, not the hip. load is lifted from the back, not the hip) in short, if every time you move you have to wiggle your core thats a lot for a dumb biological box, that has to multitask, to do

CURING YOUR ACHILLES TENDONOSIS

Three elements got me back on my feet.

1) effective stretch and strengthening regime for my achilles tendon.

2) An understanding of the POSE running technique

3) Going barefoot.

This article is how to sort your Tendinosis in 8 weeks

I began  using ice and , stretching,

Here are my two favourite stretches

the world famous tree pushing stretch

the not so world famous.. hold the top of your foot keep your knee straight and feel your calf being ripped off the bone, stretch

but I  also employed  "eccentric loading exercises" ( the lowering part of  a calf raise, for you body building type)

  • Get the balls of your foot on a block or a step
  • and use  both feet  (handsupport) to get you above the block.
  • then lower down with the weight on the injured side.
  • I found being on a staircase with a handrail helped me control the load.

Here is a handy "You Tube" clip


After that, it was  3 sets of 10 reps . How awful the pain is suggests the amount of load you can work with in the early stages.

This was inspired by some ideas from crossfitter Philip Holbrook ( and his physio) and this report….

Eccentric calf muscle training for the treatment of chronic achilles tendinosis

by Toros Tsermakian, Ioannis Mitsakis, Christos Lyrtzis, Ioannis Tsartsapakis,  Menelaos Mitsakis, Christos Papadopoulos,  and Georgios Nousios,  who sort of observed/discovered the following

  • Overuse injuries involving the Achilles tendon are common, especially among runners.
  • The majority of Achilles tendon overuse injuries occur in men,
  • higher rate in middle-aged athletes than do most other overuse injuries.

So,  they studied the effect of eccentric calf muscle training in 18 athletes with chronic Achilles Tendinosis with a long duration of symptoms despite conventional nonsurgical treatment. Calf strength and the amount of pain during running was  measured before and after the study.

At the start of the trail,  all patients had Achilles tendon pain so sever that they could  not run. There was also   significantly lower  calf muscle strength on the injured side.

At the end of the study. Almost everyone was cured. It bloody well worked for me.

for a fuller report visit here http://www.jssm.org/suppls/11/posterpresentations.pdf

  • In the early stages i used ice after the exercise to help with the swelling.

 


 What should you do now

1) Buy the "Elite Fitness Guide" at our shop £12.99

2)   Book onto our Beginners course

3)  Book a place on the i-course

4)  Email Andrew@crossfitlondonuk.com for a personal training session

If you want to learn how to olympic lift, ring train, deadlift, squat, loose weight, get faster, improve your blood pressure, change your body composition,  learn proper dietary principles, master cool gymnastics moves and earn yourself a fit and healthy future


 

The Barefoot Journey…oochie, ouchie!

Clip to Evernote

by ANDREW on APRIL 5, 2010

in ARTICLES,RUNNING

With my achilles tendonitis spiralling agonisingly out of control, it’s time to seriously consider barefoot running. As I had suggested before, start with wandering barefoot round your flat, but, eventually you have to take the (stupid) step of going outside.

My first strategy was to go out in light plimsols. Find a quiet area, and slip them off. When I built up the courage to leave my secluded circuit  to run home, it seemed more acceptable to have a pair of shoes slung over my shoulder – at least I could prove that I was wealthy enough to own a pair of shoes.

Still, I’d been out barefoot in the metropolis – only for 5 minutes (after a 20 minuted shoed jog)- but my feet had been naked in public

On the second run, I plucked up courage to do the whole thing barefoot. Ten minutes of very cautious padding about round the back of  Stratford shopping centre, up the service ramp, round the car park, back down, round to the Mall entrance (without being seen!), back around the service route, and back to the flat.

So what are the early barefoot  lessons?

  • Darkness is your friend while you build up your confidence , but you need to see the ground in front of you.
  • Experiment with your foot placement
  • Some pavements are soft
  • Some pavements are hard
  • Tarmac can be hard, but some can be smooth
  • Tarmac can be very nobbly and painful
  • Watch the road in front of you for glass, stones and stuff that could stick in your feet.

As to the actual running lesson: make your early runs modest, say 1000m at most. Stay close to home, experiment with your foot placement. I felt this time lifting my toes a bit, and trying to put the whole foot down (perhaps with a slight ball of the foot lead) felt right, rather than heel-striking (out of the question) and staying on the balls of my foot (which felt too nasty on my achilles) Maybe I was POSE running, but I found myself running through some of the guidance given by  Gordon Pirie.

Getting back home, you cannot take dirty shoes off, so you need to either brush your feet off, and get to the shower.

THE 5 P's of Running 

The following article has been reproduced by kind permission of the author, Matthew Barreau, who is a USATF Level II Certified Endurance Coach and highly respected.  It is an analysis of the phases of the running stride focused primarily on the action of the lower body. Included are details of running drills and their benefit as they relate to particular aspects of stride efficiency.

For more information, you can email Matthew on  riaarunnerboy@hotmail.com

THE 5 P’s of Running

There is no clear place to begin talking about the running stride, as the success of each phase is ultimately a product of how well the phase before it was performed. As will be explained later, I believe the recovery phase to be the most important of the running phases. Therefore, I will begin this discussion with the phase immediately following recovery, and build up to that crucial phase of form. That way, any errors in the recovery phase, being a product of things happening before it, will be able to be detected more easily.

I have separated the running stride into the Five “P’s”:

  • Preparation
  • Propulsion
  • Push off
  • Pull Through,
  • Percussion

The first four are actual phases of the running stride, while the percussion is more of a tool of self-check.

Preparation

The preparation phase begins after the foot has swung down from its recovery phase position close to the upper thigh, and come into the position it will hold until impact with the ground. This will be described as the time when maximum knee lift has occurred (this depends on the speed of the run, where faster running means more leg lift). The foot should be in a dorsi-flexed position, with the mid to forefoot falling directly below the knee. As the knee is a support mechanism in running (detailed later), it makes sense that it should be directly above the contact with the ground as the time of impact. The dorsi-flexed foot will minimize absorption of running energy by the calf muscle. If the foot is plantar flexed, then as gravity pushes the body downward, the calf will be forced to lengthen in order to provide a push off role (see push off phase for more details). This eccentric contraction of the calf is extremely costly, as this type of contraction is the most straining on the body. Landing on the mid to forefoot will also minimize “braking” and trauma on other joints. By landing on the heel, impact forces are transferred up the legs, and can even reach the back.

After the leg has got into the position described above, it begins the downward swing to the ground. Muscularly this is caused by the extension of the hip muscles (glutes, upper hamstrings). Because of this extension, which will continue throughout the running motion, your foot will actually be moving backward upon impact. Therefore, you want the foot to land slightly in front of the center of mass (COM), so that by the time it becomes “useful” it will be directly under the COM , if not slightly behind. (The moment the foot touches the ground, it has merely made contact, and has not yet become a supporting mechanism. Since your body is travelling forward this entire time, the COM will move ahead of the foot strike by the time it becomes a supporter.) If the hip extensors are called into action while the foot is in front of the COM, then they are becoming active in simultaneously pulling and helping support the body’s weight, which is a great strain on the muscles and can eventually lead to great hamstring difficulties, including overuse injuries and premature tiring. Should the foot fall in front of the COM, a “braking” effect will occur. Tired quads can be a product of over striding, as it causes the quads to support the body’s vertical and horizontal components simultaneously. Conversely, if the foot should fall behind the COM by too much, an inefficient falling motion will occur.

The knee must be slightly bent upon impact. This will allow the mid to forefoot to position itself directly under the knee and the supporting system of the body. A straight leg will not only negate much of the lower legs power potential (quads), but it will also cause a greater strain on the hamstring and calf muscles when they are called into action to unbend the joint; moving any joint through a range of motion is significantly easier than the initial unbending of the joint itself.

Drills

Heel walks – By concentrating on keeping the toes off the ground, you are strengthening the anterior shin muscles. This will help in keeping the toes up just before the foot’s impact with the ground, minimizing “absorbing” by the calves.

Toe walks – This exercise strengthens the calves. These are mini-plyometrics, as each step produces a small bouncing motion. During the preparation phase, it is important to have strong calves to resist absorbing energy at the point of impact.

‘A’ mechanics- The focus of this drill is to bring the leg as quickly as possible to the position it will be in just before it begins descending toward the ground; the knee will be at its highest point, and the toe will be positioned directly beneath it.

‘B’ mechanics – From the ending position of ‘A’ mechanics (knee up, toe up and beneath the knee), this exercise is about bringing the leg down and backward (clawing action). The foot will make a “scuffing” sound while moving down and back upon contact with the ground

‘C’ mechanics – This is a range of motion exercise that mimics ‘A’ mechanics, but also includes repeating the motion with the knee pointing out to the side. This helps hip mobility, while maintaining ‘A’ form.

Propulsion

For the most efficient stride, all of the energy of motion must be direction in the motion of travel, which, in the case of running, is forward. Any alternative motions are merely wasted energy. The COM should remain at a constant height to eliminate the use of energy in any vertical component of forces. In analyzing the forces in the running stride, a vertical component is present due to the need to counter the forces of gravity. However, to be most efficient, the forces supplied by the body will be just enough to counter the gravity, and not superfluous to that; in other words, no net change in COM height.

The forward motion is caused primarily by hip extension. In order to maximize each stride, the range of motion of the hip must be adequate enough to allow for maximal hip extension. Obviously, the farther one can push with each step, the longer the stride will be (frequency and stride length are the primary components in overall running speed). If you merely extended your hip without changing the angle of your knee or ankle, you would lower your COM. So, while your hip extends, your knee must extend simultaneously, also. The ankle comes into play at the end of the stride, which will be examined in the next section.

Drills

Walk-through lunges – This motion exaggerates the propulsion phase. Catching the weight on the landing foot will help strengthen the glutes for support while running, and the walk through motion strengthens the glutes for their role in propulsion.

‘B’ mechanics – The benefit for this phase is merely a continuation of the last phase: in teaching the foot to be moving backward upon impact with the ground, the glutes will be able to provide more of a propulsion effort to the stride.

Push off

The push off phase is actually a continuation of the propulsion phase, but deserves special attention, as it can help determine whether you run forward faster, or run with more of a bounce in your stride. Seemingly more than any other phase, this final push off will be the cause of wasted energy. The two major components of the final push off are near-maximal knee extension and a plantar-flexion of the ankle joint. As previously described, the knee is primarily a height maintenance mechanism in running; as the hip extends, so must the knee. When the hip is at full extension, the knee has yet to completely extend. Hence, as there is no more extension of the hip, there is no need to further extend the knee. Doing so will only cause a greater vertical component to the running stride, and give the sensation of leaping or bounding with each stride, rather than running. As previously discussed, completely straightening the knee joint will require an undue stress on the hamstrings and calves in order to bend it for the recovery phase. Additionally, it will take more time to get the lower leg into the recovery phase, which will create more upper body twisting. Excessively tired quads can be a product of having too much of a vertical component in the running stride. The final aspect of the movement aspect of the running stride is the toe-off. After the hip has been fully extended, the ankle joint is the last chance to add horizontal movement and with it, length to the stride. And with virtually no added time cost to this toe-off, there is clear benefit to the motion. (I say virtually no added time because a small time component is present. For the toe-off to be a horizontal component, the leg must be as far back as possible. The timing of the toe-off also coincides with the beginning of the recovery phase [pull through] of the leg to minimize the extra time of contact on the ground.) To gain the greatest force from this toe-off, the principles of plyometrics must be heeded too: a loaded muscle will provide a greater response than an unloaded one. When the foot first strikes the ground, the added weight of the body on the calf muscle becomes the loading. If landing with the ankle in a plantar-flexed position, the loading will be too much and too slow, and the golgi tendon organ (responsible for muscle relaxation) will win out, canceling any potential load-fire coupling benefits. Additionally, any extra strain on the calf from the landing will tire the calf, naturally decreasing its potential to give back energy through the toe-off. Strong quads are then also important for a proper toe-off, as they will support much of the load of the body, leaving the calves available for propulsion rather than support.

Drills

Walk-through lunges – As you complete the walk-through portion of this drill, placing an emphasis on the extra push with the toes teaches the body to do the same during the running motion.

Toe walks – If done with a little bounce in the stride, the plyometric effect of this drill will give the calves extra strength for pushing off. It is important to focus on the quickness of the bouncing in order to desensitise the golgi tendon organ, which causes muscle relaxation. This would diminish the calves’ abilities to provide extra inches to stride length.

Pull Through

When training the body, it is said that increases in performance come during the recovery phase, rather than during the actual training session. The same principle can be applied to the running stride; the increases in stride efficiency will come from the recovery phase of the stride, or how fast you can get the leg through in order to begin the next preparation-propulsion-push off cycle.

The pattern of movement for the pull through phase can be classified simply by the pneumonic “heel up, toe up, knee up.” This, again, emphasizes the need for a toe-off motion in completing the propulsion phase of the stride. The “heel up” begins with the toe-off creating the heel to rise, and continues with the need to get the heel to the upper thigh as quickly as possible. This will shorten the lever that needs to be brought forward, creating a faster pull through phase.

The toe up and knee up basically occur at the same time (keep in mind that all three of these events happen nearly simultaneously, as the goal is to have them occur as quickly as possible). As the heel is being brought to the upper hamstring, the knee is already being driven forward. As the foot swings through, it is then dorsi-flexed (toe up), and placed in the position it will remain in until contact with the ground. This flexing of the anterior shin muscles also helps begin the flexing of the knee.

Bringing the knee up is almost a misnomer, as it gives the illusion that the goal is to create a vertical component of movement. However, the primary thought behind “knee up” is in allowing the lower leg a slight amount of extra time to fall down into position for the landing. In essence, this is merely a slight pause in the motion of the upper leg while the lower leg uncoils.

Drills

Carioca – The major action in this drill is the quick raising and lowering of the rear leg. The emphasis on quickness and raising the leg will greatly involve the hip flexors, which are the primary movers in the pull through phase.

Walk-through lunges – When beginning the walk-through motion, the pattern of movement mimics running. The need for getting the leg through quickly is important in this drill because if you do not you will fall; essentially the same as in running.

‘B’ mechanics – Especially when doing drills such as continuous fast leg, these drills can place an emphasis on leg recovery. To focus on the pull through phase, begin with the hip fully extended, and do heel up, toe up, knee up as quickly as possible.

‘A’ and ‘C’ mechanics – Both of these drills are involved with this phase of running because of their involvement with strengthening the hip flexor muscles. For best results, focus on quickness of hip flexion.

The reasoning behind bringing the leg as close to the body involves more than just creating a shorter lever for quicker movement. By bringing the lower leg up against the upper leg, the hip flexors (a traditionally weaker muscle) do not need to exert as much force during the pull through phase. Instead, the hamstrings help support the weight of the lower leg during this phase. Raising the leg higher will also make the legs less of a rotational force. Because of this, the upper body does not need to counteract as much rotary movement, allowing for a more forward-focused movement. A strong core will assist even more with this process, as it will provide additional inhibition of rotary movement through its stabilization properties.

Percussion

The final “P” of the running stride is percussion. This is merely a means of self-check in the absence of technical coaching and/or video equipment. Looking in a mirror does not provide great feedback, as a head-on mirror will reflect too small an image and not allow adequate time to get to a cruising speed (when a patterned stride occurs). A mirror on the side requires a turn of the head, which is not a natural part of the running stride, and will therefore provide inaccurate assessments of form. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it merely changes forms during its existence. One of these forms is movement, and another is sound. Optimally, while running, the goal is to put complete energy into movement. This, then leads to the assumption that the most efficient stride will also be the quietest (assuming all other things are equal). The sound produced by your feet hitting the ground is a transfer of energy your body is producing to the noise you hear, and is a result of the vertical component of force you place into the ground (and it conversely gives back to you). In a gravitational environment, some vertical component will always be necessary, so some sound will occur. The goal is to simply minimize it.

Drills

Running – From one thing evolves another, and such is the whole of the running motion. As running is a cyclical pattern, an error can compound itself many times over. Ultimately, the most basic test of form is the sound the foot makes with the ground. Any noise is a transfer of energy in a downward motion, rather than the forward motion of running.

Upper Body action

What to look for in a runner’s upper body:

  • Minimal rotation of the upper body is the goal, so a strong core is necessary
  • The abdominal and lower back muscles must be of sufficient strength to absorb as much rotational forces created by the lower body as possible
  • The arms, shoulders, and neck should be in a relaxed state, to allow for a greater freedom of motion
  • Tightness in one area of the stride has been known to affect other aspects of the stride, as everything is ultimately one interconnection motion
  • Elbow angle will range from slightly less than 90° at its forward most point, to 90° as it passes the side of the body, to slightly more than 90° as it swings behind the body
  • The range of motion will be greater and more forceful as the speed of running increases.
  • The head should remain in a neutral position above the shoulders
  • Overall, there should be a slight forward lean in the body to help utilise gravity’s forces to assist in the running process