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The importance of running at high frequency pacing

Words by A.I.C.N. - Associazione Italiana Corsa Naturale
In this article we will deal with the very close relationship between the number of footrests on the ground in the unit of time, i.e. the Step Frequency (FP), also called Cadence, and the efficiency of the motor gesture. The aim is to propose ways of making the race energy efficient and physically healthy.

This stroke optimization can be achieved:

  • by shortening the time spent on the ground
  • by maximizing the rebound effect
  • by minimising the need for muscle push

In order to face this task in the best way, we must start from the study of the forces that intervene in the running cycle, understanding how they are generated and managed and then recover a sequence of movements that allows us to optimize the use of these forces to run as effectively as possible.

Running, a.k.a. the art of bouncing

The undeniable evolutionary success of our species is closely linked to the development of extremely efficient walking patterns. In the history of the Human Body, Lieberman explains how "Darwin was far-sighted when in 1871 he imagined that, among all the characteristics that make human beings different from other species, it was the bipedal gait - and not the big brains, language or use of tools - that were the first to divide the evolutionary line of man from that of other anthropomorphic apes" and again ...the advantage of the bipedal gait, the most surprising and perhaps even the most important one, is that walking on two legs may have helped the first ‘ hominis’ (correct wording of the most common but incorrect term "hominids") to conserve energy on the go.

Let's remember that the LCA (Last Common Ancestor between us and the high species of anthropomorphic apes, such as Gorillas or Chimpanzees,) was probably a knuckle walker; a very strange way to move on all fours and expensive from the energetic point of view.

The gait, from chimpanzee to man

Experiments have shown that chimpanzees walking on two or four legs for a certain distance consume four times the energy of a human being (Sockol, Raichlen e Pontzer, 2007). This extraordinary difference is because chimpanzees have shorter legs, swing from side to side and always walk with their knees and hips bent. The result is that they constantly consume a lot of energy to contract the muscles of the back, pelvis and thighs so that they don't fall on the floor.

Therefore, they constantly consume energy to contract the muscles of the back, pelvis and thighs so that they don't fall on the floor; with the same amount of energy consumption, a human being can walk around 8-12 kilometres. Had the first hominins be able to walk on two legs, swinging less and with knees and even straighter, they would have had a considerable energy advantage over their cousins, knuckle walkers.

Being able to use the same energy to go further away would have been a very beneficial adaptation, especially as the rainforest shrank and became more fragmented, making preferred food rarer and further away.

Keep in mind that, although the way men walk on two legs is immeasurably more energy effective than knuckle walking, the early hominids may have been only slightly more efficient than chimpanzees, yet not as efficient as the later hominids.

From walking to running

If low speed walking, based on the controlled fall of the centre of gravity, normally called walking, allows human beings to save energy, the real evolutionary and energetic masterpiece is running which is a series of jumps in succession. The great efficiency of this method of fast walking is that by the combination of a motor scheme that provides a flight phase, and then a subsequent landing, with a biomechanical system, consisting of the complex tendon muscle of the leg and foot, which allows to momentarily store the kinetic energy resulting from the landing, and then return it in the thrust phase of the next "jump".

Running frequency

Running frequency is the element of training and improvement of the motor pattern that is easiest to measure and improve as it is, in fact, an objective data; just count the number of steps performed in each time. To make comparisons, walking generally involves lower frequencies than running. These parameters can be, within certain limits, artificially forced, generating a run at very low frequencies and a walk at very high frequencies. However, quantities need to be defined, otherwise the simple definitions of high and low frequencies are meaningless.
It is interesting to do tests on a treadmill starting from very low speeds and gradually increasing the speed to check at what frequency each athlete is led to change gait, from walking to running. Regardless of the speed, almost all of them, at frequencies of 135/140, automatically switch to running. In highly trained subjects, such as marching athletes, the frequencies rise to about 160/170 supports per minute. On the other hand, the frequencies of high-level runners range from 190/200 supports in medium-long races such as the 10.000m and the marathon, to about 200/220 speed races such as the 400m. up to about 260/270 of Usain Bolt in the 100m! These data allow us to make a rather obvious but often forgotten consideration. as speed of performance increases, frequency of steps also increases.
Skillrun is the perfect tool to unleash athletic potential, providing unprecedented treadmill data on running efficiency with Advanced Biofeedback. Its sensors are able to detect the differences between left and right leg action by exploring stride length and ground contact time during running or determining maximum power on SLED and PARACHUTE training.
With Skillrun 7000 you can monitor the stride length and contact time in real time during the run and make independent leg, right and left measurements.

In addition, you can identify the ideal cadence and learn how to maintain it even when you feel tired. Skillrun 7000 allows you to train at different cadences at a predetermined speed and thus maximize endurance, you can analyze the power of the right and left leg in sled and parachute modes.

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