Monday, March 08, 2010

How do we run?

I've been reading some interesting blog posts from Steve Magness about running technique, shoes, barefoot running and the like. There was one about footplant and the role it plays in efficient/fast running. Apparently a mid-foot or forefoot landing is faster, due in part to the 'storage' of elastic energy in leg muscles and tendons. Mid or forefoot landings also produce shorter ground contact times. The one caveat is that changing your running form from a heel landing to a mid-foot landing needs to be done gradually if one is used to the cushioned shoes designed to touch the ground heel first.

Yesterday afternoon I did a session of running drills with Ruth and Jen on the grass near the Portrait Gallery. When we'd finished I took some slow-motion video of our running footplants. My camera is not the greatest for this as it only records video at 30 frames per second. A high speed video camera would be better. I've slowed the video down to 5 frames per second in the YouTube video at the end of this post.

On Saturday morning I ventured out with the Molonglo group — we started in light rain, which soon abated. The temperature throughout the run was about 19°C. Andy turned at the National Museum while Ruth and I continued around West Basin for a total of 30.5k. Ruth ran extra to make 31, but I'd had more than enough at 30.5 — that's close enough to a nice round 19 miles, so my obsession with round distances was amply satisfied.


Blogger Girl In Motion said...

Super cool!! And you have very nice legs, Ewen.

Can't you come visit the US soon? I'd love to see slo-mo of my foot plant, though I fear the worst. I'm really enjoying your video productions skills, btw.

3:53 pm  
Blogger jojo said...

i didnt even total 30kms last week!(i was slack) and you were right bout it being 2.34 not 2.24

8:09 pm  
Blogger strewth said...

That was a fun session but very difficult to stay serious!! You did a great job of editing!!

9:14 pm  
Blogger TokyoRacer said...

I completely agree about midfoot landing being a superior running style. I am a much better, more efficient running since changing to this style. And my legs feel much better, too. Up to 120k a week with no problems at all. Wearing light shoes is fine with this running style.

11:04 pm  
Anonymous Julie said...

It's interesting how Jen is running more up on her toes for 3K race pace than for 400m pace. I'd expect the opposite. But that goes to show that "biomechanical efficiency" can mean something quite different not just from runner to runner but also from pace to pace for any given runner.

12:28 am  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

I'm sure you can learn alot about improving running form through video taping.
check out this

1:58 am  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

very cool to do some video analysis brings back memories of my days at Uni doing advanced biomechanics in the late 90's...looks to me as if perhaps less heel plant with the 400m sprint, especially for you ewen, although it is a bit hard to see. I saw Susannah HJ running on her toes at one stage in 12 hour race. Dave K has talked about it oo, and another runna Hunna recently mentioned Chi Running to me, which apparently involves running on toes/ball of foot more. lots of discussion of barefoot running in a thread on cool running in the WA races section too...night be worth exploring some more that one, I'm not sure what to think, but it may be a a very useful way to improve times, and maybe reduce injury in the long term, as long as you make the transition without injury. very interesting...I remember running on my toes a lot as a sprinter in little athletics about 20 years ago...

2:29 am  
Anonymous RJR said...

That's a good use of the video camera. It makes me curious to try the same and see what my foot impact looks like. I know it's not pretty (which is a big part of why I injured myself when I tried to switch to minimalist shoes), but I've never actually seen what exactly is happening.

It would be interesting for you to do the same drill with the camera at a front angle to see where you all are landing on outside/inside of the foot too.

8:33 am  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

Well done Ewen

That slow mo work gave me an idea and yesterday I took the Camera into our Kitchen to film the wife cooking breakfast.

Thought the playback would enlighten me as to what she has been doing wrong all these years, but all I got was a slow motion video of eggs heading toward the camera/me!!!

10:02 am  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

Do you know anything about Chi running Ewen? There are a couple of people running with us now who are fans of it. I won't have time to research it for a little while.

10:12 am  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

I tried Chirunning for about 6 months 2 years ago, but gave it up because, well the idea is to lean forward from the ankles, the faster you want to go the more you lean and gravity is meant to pull you along. Only probblem, the more you lean the more you fall into the ground and as Canute will tell you gravity only wants to pull you downwards and not forwards!!!
negative points of chirunning;
you will not run any faster.
leaning forward can put a lot of load onto your core muscles and if you are not careful you can end up leaning from the waist and hurting your back!
good points, teaches you how to keep your calf muscles relaxed!

my view; learn how the top Kenyans run and forget chirunning!!!

6:36 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...


9:12 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Flo, don't know about that... I'm not a connoisseur of men's legs. I'm holidaying in the US next year - I'll bring my camera.

Jojo, you're not slack with those track sessions! 2:34 is still a good time.

Thanks Strewth - the frivolity was all Jen's fault ;)

Bob, thanks for that feedback. You're certainly running well - that's a good endorsement for a midfoot landing.

Julie, I'm not sure Jen guessed the correct 3k race pace. She's a bit 'freestyle' in the way she runs. I'll do another video at some stage and time the runs to get an exact pace. You're right about the form changes at different paces.

Rick, thanks for that link. Video is certainly helpful.

TB, I think it is worth trying to change/improve one's form. For older runners there could be an added benefit by running in a way that maximises 'spring' from the ground.

Robert, try video if you can - that was done with a pretty basic hand-held camera.

Scott, I can always trust you for the most humorous comment - I suppose having a wife who's that bad in the kitchen necessitates a good sense of humour.

Rick, thanks for that. I don't know anything about Chi running, but I do know Speedygeoff is known around Canberra as Muzungu.

9:55 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

Interesting one Ewen. For some similar analysis, check out Youtube and the New Jersey Sports Medecine vids ( Some real good food for thought there that your video reminded me of. Cheers, Paul :-)

10:05 pm  
Blogger Stephen Lacey said...

I planted a foot once and it grew into yard!

1:00 am  
Blogger bill carter said...

Great video Ewen! You can really see the difference in what pace does to where the foot lands. I have actually done this myself and have a midfoot landing. But I do sometimes feel that may put more pressure on the feet and cause more injuries. I also kind of believe that we have a landing that fits our own anatomy and is the right one for us.

Best of luck, my friend!

8:22 am  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

I'm not trying to be funny Ewen.

The wife did get upset and if I hadn't dropped the video camera you could have seen a slow motion clip of my wife's foot landing...

between my old fella and arse!

6:39 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

Ewen, thanks for the link to the Steve Magnes website, I found his article on running form [learning how to run];
very useful, i followed what he said on how to use the 'hip flexor reflex' and it really works!!!

3:49 am  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

Hey Ewen, FANTASTIC that you got a late entry into 6ft track this Sat. Run well!

8:28 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Paul, thanks very much for that link. Interesting.

Stephen, I'll expect better than that at the en 'n' em dash party!

Bill, that could be so - especially if one hasn't been running like that for long. Marathoners can have heel landings and run well - I've seen some elite females running that way. Another video (thanks Paul) shows that it's possible to learn a new way of running with practise.

Good one Scott... and I wasn't trying to be funny when I said arm-warmers are for girls ;)

That's OK Rick. He's written many insightful posts (and also has some great links) - worth looking back through the archives.

Thanks Liz. I aim to enjoy the experience as per usual. I'll be happy to run, walk and swim well enough to make the finish.

9:58 pm  
Blogger Ali said...

If we ran together we both would have stopped at 30.5. I can't add distance at the end. If I think a run might be short I need to add it at the beginning. There is one girl in our group who is OCD about distance, A run can not be under 5 miles, if it's 4.98, she is will not stop.

2:49 am  

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