Do we really know how to run from the get-go? Well, not really.
Indeed, running is an extremely complicated task that requires a mechanism of different capacities to work well. As we run, our neurological, psychological, physiological, anatomical, muscular and biomechanical systems must all work in unison.
The mechanics of running
Likewise, our body stores energy and use it for the following steps. It is therefore very similar to the physical motion described by a spring! Therefore, we could compare the mechanics of running to that of a biological spring.
- Energy saving (when we need to keep the running or walking pace on a flat surface)
- Power amplification (for example, when jumping, accelerating and incline running)
- Energy absorption (when we are landing from a jump, decelerating or decline running)
If we are in the first scenario (energy saving), the body transmits its forces and momentum to the tendons, which return most of that energy to the body itself in a cycle and repetitive motion. This means that our muscles need to do very little in order to keep the body moving. This is not the case for the second scenario (power amplification), when higher power production is required. In fact, when accelerating, the muscles start the movement by transmitting the generated power to the tendons, which amplify it and transfer it in a greater fashion to the body. The exact opposite is true for energy absorption: the body transfers all its energy to the tendons, which promptly carry it to the muscles capable of efficiently absorb most of that energy.
In all conditions is always a seamless, finely coordinated teamwork between body, tendons and muscles.
The 5 running metrics to always keep in check
- Arms tight
- Forward posture with the feet always falling under (or almost) the body’s center of mass
- Good load distribution (symmetry)
- High cadence and a low ground contact time
- Ground strike with the foot in the right position
- Contact time, or the time that the foot spend on the ground. Ideally, runners should have low contact time, mirrored by a high flight ratio (flight time over contact time), ranges from zero to 50% in the most efficient runners. Clearly, the speed at which one goes affect contact times, with sprinters averaging values between 110 and 150 ms and distance runners averaging between 170 and 350 ms.
- Stride and cadence: Stride is the length of running cycle, which is the complete movement of both legs while running, whereas cadence is the number of steps per minute. Runners with a short stride and high cadence have minor impact forces and consequently a lower incidence of injuries. Moreover, a higher level of frequency “unlocks” those elastic proprieties mentioned earlier allowing to reduce oxygen consumption of about 20% and to increase running efficiency up to 50%. There is no optimal stride or cadence, as these value change with speed; instead, you should check your natural cadence at a given speed and train with cadence variations in a defined range between +5% and -5%.
- Symmetry: Better load distribution between right and left foot brings many advantages to both performance and preventive aspects and represents a piece of data that can be easily monitored.
- Running Power equals the force and speed a runner is exerting at any given moment. This last metric is the result of the previous ones, and thus varying any of these will consequently vary our power output, making this parameter a sort of immediate and qualitative measure of our running form for a given task.
Having the possibility of quantizing through easily detectable metrics the effectiveness of the gesture performed and the accuracy of the workload means training with quality and, if implemented with your training routing, will surely bring enormous improvement to your running performance.
How to monitor and improve your metrics with SKILLRUN
Technogym’s SKILLRUN is the treadmill specifically designed for that purpose, to enhance your running technique not just by making you run, but by making you run efficiently.
But that’s not it. SKILLRUN has also built-in specific training programs to improve your running flexibility under multiple circumstances, mixing energy saving running with incline running, sleigh pushing and parachute running.