Driving Back to Move Forward
Running is all about moving forward from the start to the finish, and our training is aimed at preparing us to complete races in the shortest possible time.
Contrary to apparent logic our ability to cover the distance is not determined by the legs forward motion but rather its ability to drive backwards. In a similar fashion the momentum we try to harness for efficient running comes to a large extent from the backward drive of our arms which in turn initiate the reciprocal forward flow.
People often talk about putting one foot in front of the other in reference to walking or running, but in reality it is not the act of placing a foot on the ground ahead of us that moves the real mass of our body forward.
Placing your foot ahead of the centre of gravity actually tends to stop forward motion, as it then requires additional energy to drag the body up in line with the landing point of the foot before any forward advantage can be obtained.
The real forward motion comes from the moment the centre of gravity is directly above the point of landing and it is from this point the foot can push backwards to move the body forward!
Following on this line it becomes easy to understand how speed and power come from how far, how hard and how fast you drive your foot backwards.
How far back the drive can continue depends on the suppleness or flexibility of the hip and legs.
How hard depends on the strength of the leg muscles. However this can only be utilised to its full extent if it has a solid pivot point to leverage off. The real centre of strength in running is the body’s core. Without a strong core the power of the leg is lost. For this reason core strength is one of the key attributes of the best runners.
How fast you drive backwards and the length of your strides are effectively the only two things that determine the speed at which you run. The speed of each individual stride to some extent determines the total number of strides per minute and this ‘cadence’ times the length of stride determines the speed of movement.
Clearly if you want to be faster all you have to do is: lengthen your stride, increase the number of strides or increase the force with which you drive into the ground, or a combination of all.
Getting faster is not difficult but it does require us to be specific on how we train and working on these three attributes is key to progression. Hills, track, and core strength are only a few of the ways that you can use to make a difference to how fast you can run.