Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thinking About Speed

I guess my central point is, the only way we can travel at faster velocities is through the way in which we affect ground force production and therein the equation given above. Therefore understanding good technique, good coaching cues and effective drills is about seeing how these things are related to ground force production.
Fast feet drills have an outcome of focussing attention on geting the foot off the ground quick, but this isn’t how we reduce ground contact time in sport. In sport we reduce ground contact time by expressing our forces more quickly to enable the acceleration job to be done in less time and so the athlete to move off the ground into their next movement skill. Fast feet drills are therefore cueing an inappropriate pre-activation pattern which results in low ground force production on contact.

Lot's of big brained folks out there are trying to see if there's a way through coaching to make faster runners run faster.  Like many debates, the debate about running technique is dominated by thoughts and ideas, but very little data.  In other words, no matter how much I like Dr. Romanov's ideas about running faster (, or the author above, neither apparently has the large studies that would show using their techniques actually results in the greatest increases in speed.

It will be a long time before such studies exist, however, because they are likely to be expensive and complicated to plan and execute.  

However, based on what I have learned in the last couple of years - and I started as a blank slate as regards running technique - the key is to allow gravity to pull you forward off of a lever, that being your leg.  Faster runners exert the highest forces against the ground relative to their body weight in the least amount of time.  

The best concept for being a faster running that I've seen is to get stronger without gaining weight.  That way as gravity rapidly returns you to earth via a forward vector (just like a tree falling forward, only a short, light 'tree'), you swap feet, lean the right amount, and keep on falling forward, fast.  

I've always been hampered athletically speaking by a lack of athletic ability, to wit, speed.  That said, when training for Aviation Officer's Candidate School in the 80s, I had occasion to run sprints one morning on a dew covered field close to my apartment.  I was stunned to discover that my foot prints in the dew were about six feet apart, as I recall now some 23 years later.  It was a cool thing to realize that I was 'flying' my body length in the air with each stride - but unfortunately, the realization did not help me run faster.

What does all of this mean for you, aspiring to a life of wellness, strength, fitness, and exceptionally high work capacity?  I'm glad you asked.  Like Art de Vany, I find great joy in (slow) sprinting.  It offers strength, relatively low potential for injury, and the attributes cultivated by sprinting are 'all good' as regards other athletic desires and pursuits.  My sole complaint with regard to sprinting is that it is very hard to do in conjunction with a CrossFit WOD - that is to say, when near collapse due to extreme metabolic duress, I find I do not have the ability to actually sprint.  So, of late, I have pursued sprinting much like I do a max effort deadlift or squat - take a day, and run as fast as I can for several short intervals.  The pleasure exceeds all expectations, and I heartily recommend it.  

My old friend Crusader recommended sprinting over jogging many years ago, and with due consideration for the many enjoyable miles I've logged around the globe, Cru, you were right.

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