Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Faster by Technique

Running speeds improved in the 1950s with the introduction of interval training, a method that interspersed periods of high-intensity work with periods of rest.
It took a leap forward when races began being held on synthetic tracks and runners began wearing track-spiked shoes. World-class results for five-kilometre runs improved by 30 seconds virtually overnight. Sprinters could improve race times by ~0.2 seconds on a 100-metre dash. These were huge gains in a sport where performance is measured in the hundredths of a second.

Recent advances suggest support time - the amount of time each foot spends on the ground - is the key driver of speed. Shorter support time means faster running.

The interesting thing to me is that speed - like any athletic endeavor - can be taught as a skill and improved like any skill.  I don't think technique will transform my slowish self into the Barry Sanders, but it will allow me to express the athletic potential I have.  Perhaps more important, by relearning an innate skill, one that has degraded by mis-perception of running and the inevitable muscle imbalances of the modern life (lived in chairs), I'm running with the least pain I've experienced in years.  And because I've learned the skill and have a framework from which to judge degradations in technique, I can avoid another technique downturn like the one I experienced post-ACL surgery.  Lastly, I can give the same gift to others.

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