Recently in Running Category

In reflecting on the CrossFit Certification seminar I recently attended at North Santa Cruz, these words still ring in my ears like Christmas bells: "Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains, increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains, increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains."

The same weekend as the cert, three of the athletes I train were running the New York Marathon. They all finished and felt as though they had not really done a marathon, unlike many marathoners who train only long distances for long hours. At my training business, we start with technique with everyone we train. We teach each of them to squat, deadlift, snatch, and jump. It does not stop there. We look at their ability to keep a foot underneath themselves when running and how quickly they can "pull" it up off the ground as they move forward. This is the most effective approach to improving running that I have found, and as their speeds and paces get more impressive, the better the athletes get at correcting their technique in all sports as they begin to adjust to the neurological patterns associated with proper form.

Once we are comfortable with the technique we increase the work capacity. It's about power! Time to get serious. Typically, soreness follows, which is to be expected but often comes as a surprise to the non- weightlifting individual. I always laugh at this, because most endurance athletes don't connect that soreness with their other experiences.

Have you ever wondered "What is proper running form?" or "Am I doing this right?" while getting some in a CrossFit workout or just out on leisure run? If you watch track and field runners, you might become even more confused. Some runners are smooth like gazelles; some are awkward like fish out of water. Some have powerful knee drives while others have none and shuffle their feet. So why is there so much variance in running technique and form? Because every person has their own running style depending on their individual physical differences.

Exactly how these biomechanical elements are expressed in your individual style always depends on your physical characteristics and body structure. However, while everyone has their own style, there are still basic, biomechanical positions and functions that are required to be the most energy efficient, to generate the most power and speed, and to prevent injury. The following is a mechanical breakdown from the head down to the feet.

Keysha McClenton-Benzing earned her B.S and M.S in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, while also competing for the Titans as a four-year varsity letterman in cross country and track. She was three-time athlete of the year, two-time All-Conference, and two-time NCAA Nationals qualifier, and she holds two school records in the 800 meters and the 4 x 400-meter relay. She and her husband Skipp are both strength and conditioning coaches at the University of San Diego. She is still competing as a National-level Olympic weightlifter and an Olympic Games hopeful in the 800 meters. Keysha gives special thanks to Ed Nuttycombe, Jim Stinzi, Mark Guthrie (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Kenny McDaniel (Arizona State University), Mike Powell (University of California, Los Angeles), and Brandon Campbell and John Elders (California State University, Fullerton): "They are all outstanding track and field coaches who have all been involved in my training and have influenced my training philosophies today."

What is the definition of good running technique? There isn;t one. But why? These are questions that Pose running's founder Dr. Nicolas Romanov has asked since 1979 and that I've been asking, well, since "shin splints" entered my personal lexicon. So what is good running style then?

There are laws that govern us all and there is no changing the way gravity affects us. In every sport the elite all have some things in common: they use gravity to their advantage; they are compact in their movements; and everything is done with almost an effortless approach. How do elite athletes run? If you were stripped of your shoes and asked to run barefoot on the road, would you run the same way as you did with shoes? Why not? Because unless you already run Pose-style, or like Haile Gebrselassie or Michael Johnson, you probably run with your foot landing in a manner that quite destructively sends shock waves up your legs into the ankle, knee, and hip joints. In most cases, your foot will land in front of you (photo 1). Think about this for a second. If a car were traveling down the street would you stick something in front of it to speed it up?

In a companion piece to the articles by Collins and MacKenzie in this issue, triathlete and multisports coach Michael Collins explains how to work with, rather than against, the natural forces at play in nonsprint running. Gravity, ground reaction, muscle elasticity, muscle contraction, torque, and momentum are the key factors. However, the technique of many, if not most, runners is such that they are always fighting these elements rather than harnessing them to their advantage.

The Pose method for running is all about understanding the biomechanics and physics involved in maximizing efficiency (and minimizing impact on the body) to enable you to run farther faster. Once you understand and can harness the three pieces of the running movement--the pose (or posture), fall, and pull--running becomes an entirely different beast.

Michael Collins is the first level-4 certified Pose Method Coach and also trains and certifies other coaches in the Pose Method. He owns Multisports Orange County in California and is head coach for Orange County's Nova Masters swimming program. He can be reached at or 949-338-6682.

I have been a swimming coach for over twenty years, and in the swimming world most people understand the importance of technique for becoming a great swimmer. However, in the running world the main focus is on training harder, longer, or faster, and people seem to think you just "naturally" learn to run correctly by doing a lot of it.

Most of the running books I have checked out spend a lot more time on the training of running instead of the technique of running. Even the books that have technique sections don't teach it in a simple-to-follow progressive pattern. Most think of running as more of a conditioning sport than a technique sport like golf or tennis. It is more aerobically based than those two sports, but running with poor form will increase your heart rate and keep you slow, regardless of how much running you do, as well as potentially cause injuries. Technique greatly affects the heart rate and efficiency. Learning to run with efficient technique is a critical skill to economy running.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the Pose Method of running, but many don't know what it means or what it is about. This article will answer some of those questions.

What is the Pose Method? The Pose Method is a system of human movement and teaching based on determining the key pose in a movement complex and then working with the laws of nature instead of against them.

Last month I talked about rest periods during interval training and said I would discuss high-intensity sprint and peak power workouts further. One of the things I talked about is the need for relatively long rest periods during short-duration, peak-intensity work that lasts less than 10 to 15 seconds. I also noted that when it comes to sprint workouts that train short, maximal-effort running intervals, many CrossFitters--always trying to push the intensity envelope--seem to want to reduce the rest period as much as possible.

However, this changes the focus and stimulus of the workout--and not necessarily for the better. We have all heard of "adrenaline junkies"; these athletes are "lactic acid junkies," harboring the misconception that unless you are close to a visit from Pukie, you haven't worked hard enough. Wrong. As I stated last month, it depends on what you are working on. Pure strength workouts generally don't get you to the state of lying on the floor, gasping for breath, feeling absolutely wiped out and ready to throw up, and neither should a sprint workout where the focus is really on sprint technique and high power output.

When you work predominantly type-2b muscle fibers using the phosphagen system, little to no lactic acid is produced. So, when you work on low-rep Olympic lifts, train for the CrossFit Total, or do short sprint interval work, you should not produce much lactic acid.

Improving Running Mechanics

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We have outlined a model of acceleration mechanics that emphasizes the importance of training the body to handle explosive single-support applications of force (as described in issue 44 of the CrossFit Journal). Moving the body from zero to 20 mph (11.25 seconds per 100 meters) is a seemingly simple yet highly complex task for the athlete to perform. It requires specific strength applied in a purposeful, concerted manner.

When performed properly, it can be a real thing of beauty. When the athlete is untrained or improperly taught, however, it can be devastating to the body. Fortunately, high-velocity running is a skill that can be improved in every athlete, by improving either stride length or stride frequency, or both.

Biomechanics teaches us that human movement can be traced along three planes: the sagittal/ longitudinal (splitting the body from side to side); the frontal/lateral (splitting the body from front to back); and the transverse (splitting the body horizontally, as to account for rotation.) Most people think of high-velocity running as occurring in just one plane--only as moving the body forward in the shortest amount of time. But running is much more than that. We cycle the arms and legs through the front and back, we move our bodies from right and left, and we fight rotation in our trunk.

Acceleration Mechanics

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In our article on speed development in last month's CrossFit Journal we described terminology that is commonly used in discussions of the acquisition and development of sprinting skill in all athletes. One of those was acceleration, a term that has come into vogue within the last ten years in the field of high-performance personal training. Acceleration is the rate of change of velocity, and it is most often associated with the beginning of a running movement from a still position. This article discusses the notion of acceleration, steps to improve acceleration, and ways to incorporate acceleration work into your daily workout design. When we look at the acceleration of an athlete, functionality has to be the key.

Most athletes are not training to run a 100-meter dash in under ten seconds, nor should we ever think of their running goals as such. The training and movement of specialist sprinters are based on nonfunctional acceleration patterns and do not transfer well to the needs of other athletes, soldiers, or first responders, or other trainees. However, the ability to purposefully get our bodies to a maximal velocity in an efficient manner can mean success or failure for all these people in a variety of physical arenas. Power and mass are relevant here. For example, consider the differences between a pit bull and a greyhound.


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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Running category.

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