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Kangaroo Running

Posted Nov 17 2008 9:10pm

The Pose running technique suggests that runners maintain a cadence of 180 steps per minute.  This is partly the result of studies showing that top runners usually attain this rate of turnover while slower runners tend to have around 150 to 160 steps per minute.

However, this high turnover is really I think a result of proper running technique, not the cause.  If a person isn't running correctly, then I don't think there's any reason to artificially speed up the cadence to 180.  For example, if a runner is a heel-striker, then trying to obtain 180 steps per minute would be very difficult.  The solution to this issue would be to change from a heel-striker to a midfoot-striker, and from this cadence will naturally increase.

I have been working on a few things to improve my running technique.  I wrote earlier about running barefoot, and that this helped my overall alignment.  Today I experimented with what I'll call "kangaroo running" - which is simply more focus on bouncing when running.

The Pose technique says that proper running technique consists of lifting the foot, falling forward, and then repeating the cycle.  I am starting to think that this is not correct.  If you look at the top Kenyan runners, they have huge stride lengths - in the range of 6 to 7 feet per step.  How anyone could achieve this through simply lifting their foot and falling forward is beyond me.  There is obviously some type of force that is propelling a person through the air for 6 to 7 feet per step; I don't think the gravity of falling forward is enough.

If you look at the legs of top, fast distance runners, they are not very muscular compared to other athletes.  So while muscular strength certainly plays a role in running, I can't see it being the dominant force.  Instead, I would guess it is elastic energy, aka bouncing.

Research shows that leaping variables, like plyometric leap distance, is connected to higher running speeds.  And you can look at kangroos with their small legs and see how far they bound with each step.  So today, instead of shuffling along I tried to be more "bouncy" with each step.  It's somewhat counter-intuitive, because you might think that any vertical motion (bouncing up) doesn't contribute to longer strides or faster speeds.  But if someone were to really look into the physics of it, I'm not sure that would be the case.

Running with more bouncing certainly felt better than what I've been doing.  I'll continue to experiment and see how it works out.

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