Introduction

I am a sixty-plus year old runner who competed intermittently in teenage and young adult life, but then stopped running because hill-walking, mountaineering and all of life’s other activities got in the way. As the years went by, life’s other activities crowded out first the mountaineering and then the hill walking so by the time I reached sixty, I was becoming alarmingly unfit. In the hope of slowing the rate of decline I took up running again.

By my age I have become very aware of the vulnerability of the body to injury – though in fact it is not just the older runner who faces the risk of injury. Many younger runners also spend a frustrating amount of time side-lined by injury, and the ability to sustain heavy and consistent training without injury is a major factor in the success of elite athletes.

So I began looking into the question of how to run efficiently. By efficient running I mean running in a style that maximizes performance by minimizing the risk of injury and minimizing the energy consumption at a given speed.

There are three ways of determining the optimum technique:

1) Anecdotal evidence obtained by observing individuals, including elite athletes and also ourselves. A great source – but how do we know we are not focussing on an individual’s idiosyncrasies.

2) Formal scientific studies in which groups who use different techniques are compared and results are tested to assess the statistical significance of any benefit or harm of one technique compared with another. However, any conclusion only applies for the precise aspect of technique studied, and to runners at a similar level of fitness and physical constitution as the people in the study.

3) Developing techniques based on understanding the underlying physics, physiology and anatomy. In the end, a good technique must be consistent with the principles of physics, physiology and anatomy, but the body is complex and any theoretical approach might overlook some crucial factor, so eventually a practical test is required.

Because none of these approaches alone is likely to give us the complete answer, this blog will try to assemble evidence gleaned by all three approaches, and assign special value to the ideas that are supported by all three.

The format I plan to follow in this blog is to post my thoughts on various aspects of efficient running, starting with a detailed speculation about the mechanics of running. That post and others that might be of enduring interest will also be saved as updateable articles accessed via the side bar of this site. The posts and articles are not intended to be authoritative because I am not an expert. Rather, they are intended to be a stimulus for further thought and discussion. I would hope to be able to update the main articles from time to time as people point out the errors of my early efforts, and as more information emerges

Any reader should be aware of limitations of this site and should seek professional advice before introducing changes in their running style.

 

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6 Responses to “Introduction”

  1. nrg-b Says:

    Canute: Your article is well written and technically quite accurate. You’re a talented writer. Nothing you’ve said invalidates Pose or Stride Mechanics.

    Your first article is an Introduction about optimum technique:
    – Anecdotal: IMHO, all top elite athletes show the same style as described by Pose and Stride mechanics
    – Studies: You have to include the “coverage” of the studies. Running is “holistic”. What one study might view as a downside, another might view as a positive. For example, landing forefoot stresses the achilles but saves the knees. You can’t take the results of any one study as the “last word”.
    – Techniques: All animals of the same species run pretty much the same way. For example, adult cheetahs, adult kangaroos. Likewise all human toddlers run almost the same way. Why? What do they know of “physics, physiology and anatomy”? Yet when we watch a marathon you will observe a huge diversity of running styles. Why? How the heck did this happen? How do we differentiate them? What can we do to explain to someone what’s right and wrong? More importantly what can we do to correct someone’s style?

  2. Jhuffman Says:

    Canute,

    Forward movement (falling vea a gravitational torque) begins once the centre of mass ahas passed the ball of the foot. The ground reaction force decay rate increases as running speed increases. The decay rate is reflecting body weight leaving the ground and not lower-limb muscle activity pushing us off the ground.
    In the Pose Method model of running it is believed that gravity is causing a torque from maximal vertical ground reaction force until toe-off negating any need to push-off the ground with our muscle system. The horizontal propulsive ground reaction force(friction force) reflects gravity’s horizontal component, because muscle activity is silent at this point of stance.

  3. canute1 Says:

    Jeremy,
    Thanks, we agree that gravitational torque (in the direction promoting rotation of head forwards and down relative to feet) begins once the centre of mass has passed the point of support (the BOF in Pose). We also agree that at higher running speed, GRF will decay more quickly because time on stance is shorter (though peak GRF will be greater)

    I think we also agree that there is no need to use the muscles to provide horizontal propulsion though we have different explanations. I believe it is because no horizontal propulsion is required (in the absence of wind resistance) when running at a constant speed (because of Newtons’ first law of motion – momentum keeps the body moving.) As you know, I do not believe there is (or needs to be) any horizontal component of gravity.

  4. Jhuffman Says:

    Canute,

    What do you agree with and disagree with in regards to Dr. Romanov’s assessment of Haile G. running technique anaylsis: http://www.posetech.com/video/index.php/P15/

  5. canute1 Says:

    At present I am having problems with viewing videos from the internet on my computer (I seem to have a problem with Quicktime and need to re-install it), but had had seen this commentary by Dr Romanov on Haile Gebrselassie previously. In general, I agree with what Dr R. reports. However, I am keeping an open mind about his interpretation of what he describes as HG’s errors. After all, HG has better performance data to justify his style than Pose, but I think it is unlikely that HG’s style is perfect, so it is worth listening to Dr R’s criticism.

    Maybe the most important possible ‘error’ is landing in front of the COG. However, as I have discussed recently, it is not yet clear that this is an error even though it presents problems. As discussed in my blog on where the foot should fall, if the gravitational torque that Dr R states is important in forward propulsion really has a large effect, the torque must be reversed at some stage during gait cycle. Because leverage on the ground is required for this (unless there is a lot of wind resistance), I think this has to be during stance. I can only think of three plausible possibilities:
    1) it is necessary to land at least a bit in front of the COG as HG does;
    2) it is necessary to give a flick of the heel at lift-off;
    3) gravitational torque is trivial and is corrected by wind resistance , but if it is this small it is unlikely to play an important role in running.

    I do not know which of these three is the most important, and I will do some calculations on the weekend to try to answer this question. All three of these possibilities would potentially undermine the theoretical principles of Pose (though they do not prove that Pose does not work, at least for some people.)

  6. canute1 Says:

    At present I am having problems with viewing videos from the internet on my computer (I seem to have a problem with Quicktime and need to re-install it), but had seen this commentary by Dr Romanov on Haile Gebrselassie previously. In general, I agree with what Dr R. reports. However, I am keeping an open mind about his interpretation of what he describes as HG’s errors. After all, HG has better performance data to justify his style than Pose, but I think it is unlikely that HG’s style is perfect, so it is worth listening to Dr R’s criticism.

    Maybe the most important possible ‘error’ is landing in front of the COG. However, as I have discussed recently, it is not yet clear that this is an error even though it presents problems. As discussed in my blog on where the foot should fall, if the gravitational torque that Dr R states is important in forward propulsion really has a large effect, the torque must be reversed at some stage during gait cycle. Because leverage on the ground is required for this (unless there is a lot of wind resistance), I think this has to be during stance. I can only think of three plausible possibilities:
    1) it is necessary to land at least a bit in front of the COG as HG does;
    2) it is necessary to give a flick of the heel at lift-off;
    3) gravitational torque is trivial and is corrected by wind resistance , but if it is this small it is unlikely to play an important role in running.

    I do not know which of these three is the most important, and I will do some calculations on the weekend to try to answer this question. All three of these possibilities would potentially undermine the theoretical principles of Pose (though they do not prove that Pose does not work, at least for some people.)

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