So guess what...? There is a lot more to running that going in circles around a track or bombing down trails in the woods. How about we break it down and discuss three critical components to running?These are critical for running "better" without taking a hit to your economy or risk of injury. I didn't say these three concepts will make you the best runner or prevent 100% of injuries. However, if you don't have these three things then you my friend are missing a few pieces of the puzzle.
1. Runners Need Mobility. Not More but Not Less.
What the heck does that mean? It means you need just enough mobility to move what needs to be moved without creating a compensatory movement pattern. It also means that going above and beyond that threshold may not be beneficial. We are talking Goldilocks here, not too tight and not too loose. We need you to be just right. The good thing here is that "just-right" probably fluctuates between body type, activity type (sprinter vs. distance vs. hurdlers), and running form. However, there are some minimums. We need enough mobility to allow our legs to extend behind us. This requires adequate hip extension, ankle dorsiflexion, and first ray dorsiflexion. We need other joints to be mobile as well but these are the essentials. How much? We are looking for 15-20 degrees of hip extension, 30 degrees of ankle dorsiflexion and another (ankle is already dorsiflexed to 30 degrees before measuring great toe mobility) 30 degrees of metatarsophalangeal (MTP) dorsiflexion of the first ray on top of that. These are not "normal" ranges of motion for these joints but these are the amount needed for running.
2. Runners Need Stability.
If you try to drive a car with poor alignment very far then you are in for a hard a time. The human body is no different. You need a stable and properly aligned "chassis" for efficient energy transfer. This means you need enough "core" control or stability to maintain your alignment while running, for the entire run. You need to be stable from stride 1 through mile x/the finish. This requires stability in all three planes and not just the sagittal plane where many of us tend to hangout. I see poor stability as a common fault for many of us. It is challenging to have proper motor control, especially for long periods of time. We do not want unstable levers to interact with and try to control high/rapid forces.
|You need to be stable from beginning to end.|
3. Runners Need Strength & Power.
You're a runner, right? The prime example of an "endurance" athlete. Pure cardio, pure aerobic metabolism, purely about getting in the miles or minutes. Wrong. Runners need proper levels of strength and power as well. There is plenty of evidence to show that weight training can be very beneficial to endurance athletes and runners! Your hips (glutes) need to be able to propel your entire body up and forward...very very quickly, many many times. In addition, vertical ground reaction forces (vGRF) in running peak at about 2.5x body weight! Think about that for a second...That would be the equivalent of a 150lb runner doing a single leg back squat with 225lbs on the bar for a total of 375lbs through one leg!
What about plyometrics? Economic running is very plyometric in nature...it is all about how well you can store and release elastic energy! If we are going to have stable levers from non-negotiable #2 then lets take advantage of that and apply some large forces through them!
|Gravity is relentless. You need to be strong because we are always fighting it.|
Take these three concepts in isolation and they make sense. Look at them in combination and they make even more sense! Hey wait a minute! How do these things even help runners? Well, overall these are needed to better our running economy and that is done by addressing two key concepts of economic running form.
- Better Storage and Release of Elastic Energy
- Minimized Loading Rates
Now we just need to take these conceptual ideas and put them into practice, right? Stay tuned for future posts where we will discuss how to evaluate and address these issues.