“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.

trexI 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

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

References

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.

Comments
  1. scratchtype1 says:

    I agree with your concerns about cadence and hip mobility. I also see that you’ve got some speed that I can only dream of, but it certainly might mean that if cadence and hip mobility are weaknesses in your running, then improving those could pay some dividends.

    Another potential limiting factor that I will mention, mostly because it affected me a lot when I first began barefoot running, is trying to assess how well your glutes are firing. The glutes are the big engine of the running stride and our modern lifestyles do a lot to inhibit their full function.

    For me, I’ve been able to get them working better by doing hill sprints, short 8 to 10 seconds bursts up slopes with full recoveries in between reps. I don’t think the glutes are fully working yet, but they do work a lot better and when I cycle through how the body parts are feeling when I run, I can usually feel that they are grabbing when the foot strikes the ground, although the left one still tends to be something of a laggardish dolt. That dolt’s inhibition is probably what got the front of my left hip in trouble last year as the hip flexors tried to compensate for the fact the left glute was doing hardly anything to propel me along.

    Congratulations on the win! I would be ecstatic if one day I were to simply garner an age-group win and even if a kid told me afterwards, “You run like a t-rex.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s