Running efficiency at any speed

by | Aug 4, 2020 | Exercise & Fitness, Personal Stories | 0 comments

When I was training for the half-marathon, I wasn’t too concerned about my speed. I just wanted to finish. And not finish dead last.

As I piled up the miles, though, I noticed something about my running. There were moments when I was lumbering along, yard after laborious yard. Yet at other times, I was running more smoothly, with easy effort. For a moment or two, it was actually a joy to run.

What makes for easy, seemingly effortless running?

Biomechanical studies have identified a number of factors that correlate with running efficiency. Here’s one important factor that I tried to apply to my own training: how much my center of weight moved up and down with every cycle of gait.

The more energy I spent moving my center of weight up and down, the less energy was left over to propel me forward.

How can I maximize my forward motion and minimize up and down?

A pattern of movement is initially generated in the brain. So I tried to create the right movement picture in the brain, and trust that my inner software would translate that into the right pattern of individual muscle firings.

Here are two ideas I worked with:

  • Focus on using the toes to push myself forward with each step.

As I roll through my foot onto my toes, they actively spring me forward.

  • Focus on shooting my knees forward with each step.

Instead of thinking about “lifting” my knee by bending at the hip, I think about drawing my knee forward, de-emphasizing the hip fold and emphasizing the knee fold.

When I tried to embody either of these movement pictures, I found that my running felt much more effortless.

These two ideas about efficient running apply independent of running speed. So even a slow runner like me can benefit by not wasting energy.

These ideas also apply to walking. With a more efficient pattern of walking, you’ll have more energy, put less stress on your joints, and get a better workout.

I can coach you to embody these ideas at an individual training session.

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