“You still run like a t-rex and your bum sticks out DADDY!!” The words of my 3 and a half-year old after I won my first 5 km . I did try to convince her I run like a young Kenyan bounding along like a new-born zebra but she’s stubborn and the fact my wife reinforces the opinion doesn’t help.
I joined Newbridge athletic club 5 months ago as a runner who enjoyed the occasional race. I thought I trained reasonably hard, that I pushed myself on short runs, got my long mileage done, and did the odd interval and hill session here and there. But I missed the craic of group training that I got from rugby….. I say craic but I probably really missed the competition at training on a Tuesday and Thursday and the game at the weekend. Training can be as sophisticated and researched as you like….. But if I don’t have competition I’ve now realised I don’t enjoy it. Competition brings on improvement, and it did in me – – My times have improved to 5km 18.18 and 10 km now 38.30(still working on this one).
But there is nothing like the honesty of a 3-year-old to bring you back down to earth. Molly ( my daughter) comes to most of the runs I do and takes a keen interest in my performance. But she is blunt with her critiques. And after the first ever 5km race I won (which she wasn’t at) she asked how I managed it – because “you still run like a T-Rex and your bum sticks out”
So this got me rethinking …… surely my running form has improved?? I’m running minutes quicker I must be more efficient and my form must have improved. And it has come from a bad place and is continuing to improve but it’s clearly not impressing my 3-year-old!!!
What do I need to work on?
Cadence is how often your feet touch the ground and it’s easy to modify. Research published in 2011 by Heiderscheit et al. indicates that running at a 5-10% higher rate of cadence (than your norm for a given pace) results in a reduction of impact loading on the knee and hip joints, a decrease the amount of vertical displacement (bounce), a shortening in stride length, and created less braking force at contact with the ground. Recreational runners typically have a cadence closer to 160, which may put them at risk of injury because the longer strides necessitated by a slower cadence take runners higher off the ground. This in turn means that each footfall is harder, and many running injuries are associated with the shock of landing.
Like many recreational runners my current cadence averages 165ish ……. if can improve this to 175-180 I should be able to run quicker times without necessarily improving my fitness levels. All you need to aim for is 30 steps with your right foot every 20 seconds; this corresponds to a cadence of 180.
Poor hip mobility
Again like most amateur runners I have ridiculously tight hips and I “sit down” into my run because I lack hip extension and internal rotation. Van Mechelen et al suggested that decreased hip range may be a result of injury but may also predispose the runner to injury, granted this study is 23 years old but there has been further research that suggests limited hip mobility can lead to injuries in runners (Franz et al, 2009). But more importantly improving hip mobility will improve running speed (Dugan & Bhat, 2005).
So sophisticated gait analysis was simplified by a 3-year-old in a very brief and heartbreaking synopsis and delivered with a cheeky grin ……… I do have so much more to work on to improve my running economy but this will be a start.
Author: Barry Kehoe MISCP CSCS
Dugan SA & Bhat KP. (2005). Biomechanics and analysis of running gait. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am 16, 603-621.
Franz JR, Paylo KW, Dicharry J, Riley PO & Kerrigan DC. (2009). Changes in the coordination of hip and pelvis kinematics with mode of locomotion. Gait Posture 29, 494-498.
Heiderscheit BC, Chumanov ES, Michalski MP, Wille CM & Ryan MB. (2011). Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Med Sci Sports Exerc 43, 296-302.
van Mechelen W, Hlobil H, Zijlstra WP, de Ridder M & Kemper HC. (1992). Is range of motion of the hip and ankle joint related to running injuries? A case control study. Int J Sports Med 13, 605-610.