How to Run Smarter
Running is, technically, a form of work.
Physics defines work as force acting upon an object to cause a displacement of the object in the direction of the force. (Stick with me here for a minute. This post really is about running, not physics.)
Work is mathematically represented by the following equation:
Work = Force x Displacement
Movement does not meet the physics definition of work if a force does not cause an object to be displaced (i.e., accelerated or decelerated). An interesting fact, per Newton’s first law of motion, is that it is possible for an object to be in motion without a force being applied.
I’ll write more about the application of Newton’s first law and running in the future. For now, though, it’s important to note that the three requirements for work are force, cause and displacement. A force must cause displacement of an object in the direction of the applied force for the activity to qualify as work.
Running satisfies both the force, cause and displacement requirements of the definition of work.
An athlete works by applying force during each stride that causes his or her body to displace (move forward).
Misconceptions about the type of force that creates forward movement while running is why a number of athletes do not reach potential speeds. The direction and amount of displacement is not difficult to discern. Inaccurate beliefs about the type of force causing displacement of the body during running hinder performance.
As discussed in A Macro View of Running, too many athletes believe that lifting or swinging one leg in front of the other creates the force that causes them to move from a starting point to a destination. But the biomechanics created from this concept of running are inefficient and can result in injury, especially over long periods of time.
The most effective way to run is to propel yourself forward, not swing your legs or lift yourself forward. It’s also the smarter way to run.
The force that creates the greatest displacement of our bodies when running is propulsion. This occurs when the leg extends after ground contact.
The easily observed leg swinging to the front of a runner’s body (hip flexion) is often mistaken as effectively displacing the body by lifting it forward. Hip flexion repositions the leg so it can initiate ground contact and propel the body forward again during the next stride.
Hip flexion is important to running as it creates potential and elastic energy while providing a counterbalance for the opposite leg that’s propelling the body. Athletes must realize hip flexion simultaneously with leg extension, however, in order to propel their bodies well.
In my next post, I’ll share the formula to run faster.
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A Macro View of Running: Is Your Concept Slowing You Down?