What image should guide lift-off from stance?

My experience in  the last two days makes me wonder again about the right mental image to use to help develop a good lift-off of the foot from stance. Video recordings of Haile Gebreselassie, such as the recording made during his world record breaking marathon run in Berlin in 2007 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xGXPxJzeug ) suggest that the ankles should rise well behind the direct line from lift-off to the hips. This is what you should expect if the lift-off from stance is executed mainly by the hamstrings with very minimal hip flexion, because the hamstrings not only flex the knee but also tend to extend the hip backwards. Unless there is a moderately active hip flexion, the ankle will rise well behind the hip, just as Haile Gebrselassie’s ankles do.

Probably Haile Gebrselassie does not even need to think about the direction of pull, because it is so habitual for him. But if we want to deliberately emulate him, what mental image should we use to guide the lift-off?

When we run, it is usually better to think of what direction of movement we are aiming for rather than thinking about which muscles to use, because the brain appears able to compute which muscles to use unconsciously, once we have decided on the desired direction of movement. In the article I posted on 29th December, I had suggested an image of lifting the ankle directly towards the hip. I based this partly my own experience and partly on the recommendation by Dr Romanov in his training session presented on the PoseTech website on 27 June 2006 (http://www.posetech.com), in which he states: ‘Our perception of the foot movement should be as of a vertical motion from the ground up under the hip (piston-like), a kind of up&down motion. In our perception the foot shouldn’t deviate from the vertical line going from the ball of the support foot on the ground to under the hips’

A piston-like action from ground to hip must entail a substantial amount of hip flexor action in addition to hamstring contraction, to counteract the fact when the hamstring flexes the knee it also tends to extend the hip. Maybe Dr Rovamov only means the piston action to be an image to guide our thoughts, rather than an actual prescription for the action, because elsewhere in his books and video recordings, Dr Romanov makes it very clear that he considers that the pull should be executed mainly by the hamstring. Nonetheless, in line with his recommendation to think of an up-and down piston action, that is the image I have been trying to employ to guide lift-off recently.

At first, this appeared to work fine. I was really pleased with the feeling of ease as I ran. However, yesterday, during my fourth consecutive longish run, I was aware that my hip flexors were becoming tired even though my hamstrings felt fine. So, I am fairly sure I have been using too much hip flexion – certainly more than Haile Gebrselassie. Maybe I have simply been too vigorous is applying the up-down piston image, but I think it is more likely that, at least for me, that piston image actually results in a true up-down piston action and as a result engages the hip flexors too much. So in the next few days I will experiment with a different image in the hope that my action looks a bit more like that of Haile Gebrselassie – though I have no illusions about achieving his speed.


One Response to “What image should guide lift-off from stance?”

  1. Bill McGuire Says:

    I avoid the piston image like the plague. My personal image of a piston is of something going up and down with trmendous force and power. To me it’s the complete antithesis of relaxation. Also, I don’t understand which body part is moving like a piston.

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