By Chris Pilone.
Running technique is a much debated topic. It is also a very much debated topic in the triathlon world. Despite some success in triathlon coaching, I come from a competitive distance running background and also middle and long distance running coaching background.
Three things which can be measured when it comes to running technique:
1. Stride length
2 Stride frequency (cadence)
3. Ground contact time (how long your foot stays on the ground mid stride)
Can running technique be changed and should it be changed?
Some people think the Mona Lisa is the most beautiful painting in the world and would pay millions of dollars for it. I don’t particularly like it and wouldn’t pay a one hundred bucks for it.
This is the same for running technique to the naked eye. Beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder. One thing that has a huge impact on performance in any long distance running event though is RUNNING ECONOMY. This is a measure of how much oxygen and how much energy you use at sub maximal speeds. This can be measured in a laboratory and LESS IS BETTER!!!!
A few years ago I coached a girl who ran 32:41 for 10km and 73:08 for a half marathon. This was at age 19. She also trained in a very simple manner. Moderate volume, quite a lot of hilly running and very moderate interval work, which was never done on a synthetic running track.
This girl also looked terrible to the naked eye in terms of running technique, but when tested in the laboratory for running economy her numbers were EXCEPTIONAL. The second best I have ever seen. She was also very seldom injured.
She was later coached by her boyfriend at the time, who reckoned he could do much better with her than my very basic approach.
i.e. With better training and some super-duper running technique which only he appeared to know about, she would be a much better runner and a potential super star. Sadly she has never run remotely as fast and has been injured a lot.
Moral of the story is if its not broken, don’t try to fix it.
i.e. If uninjured and running fast then don’t change it.
However, rather than deliberate change to running technique based on observation by the naked eye there are a few things that an athlete can do which may change running technique. This in turn may improve RUNNING ECONOMY. These are various forms of hill running and some type of strength work in the gym or simply strength work using your own body weight. Also various types of running drills.
But the big thing to remember in terms of performance in any type of endurance running is that the key is ECONOMY and not technique.
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