by T.J. Murphy
Particularly in longer races, like a half-Ironman or Ironman event, fatigue as the day wears on is revealed in the utter collapse of good running mechanics. I’ve listened at length to triathlon coaches like Dave Scott, Mark Allen and Cliff English talk about this problem, as well as the great Jack Daniels, PhD, author of The Daniels Running Formula. (English, for example, lists running form as a first priority in one of his blog posts on the subject.) Good running form, and the composite strength to support good running form in ultra-endurance events, is the starting point for Power, Speed, Endurance coach Brian MacKenzie.
Each of these coaches discuss the same risks of poor mechanics: First, it’s the primary source of the chronic injuries that dog endurance athletes. Second, poor mechanics in a runner comes with a gushing power leak. Considering the role of efficiency and energy supply in races that last for hours (and hours and hours and hours), this is a huge performance concern. It’s not just raw endurance that’s involved: It’s also the physics of how much ground you are effectively covering per second. Poor mechanics can really short change you.
There are two objectives for the triathlete wanting to make running form a strength as opposed to a multi-faceted weakness. One is to build good form in the first place. Second is to be able to sustain good form for long periods of time.
As English once told me, during the marathon he is keeping watch in simple things, like the head position of his athletes. If fatigue starts creeping in and the athlete takes his or her eyes off the horizon and settles into gazing downward at the road, English knows that nothing good is going to come of this. Form will go bad and bad will go to worse. As Daniels told me, it’s usually in the latter stages of a long race or training run when the poor mechanics start grinding away at the levers and joints and injuries become part of the story.
Building good form in the first place is no easy task. The most effective path includes some combination of form drills, mobility exercises and functional strength work. The latter two may be the the most critical work at first if we’re talking about a runner with super-tight hip flexors and weak trunk muscles. Those who work a lot sitting at desk know what I’m talking about.
So it’s a tough process, with or without the guidance of a coach. As Pose Running founder Dr. Nicholas Romanov says frequently, perception is a big problem for runners. What you think you might be doing probably has little resemblance to what you’re actually doing. That said, a new technology that has emerged from Silicon Valley might offer a tool that will greatly improve the awareness and running-form overhaul for many. Lumo Run uses the processing power of your smart phone to work with a clip that you attach to the waistband of your shorts. You head out for a run or interval workout or whatever, and (if you use the option of also strapping your smart phone to you body) information collected by the 9-axis motor/sensor and sorted by the computer is turned into real-time feedback transmitted through ear phones. A virtual biomechanics coach in your head, in other words.
The Lumo Sensor tracks five specific “pillars” of running form, each derived from specific research studies (the foundational science for the tech was overseen by Rebecca Shultz, PhD, who is from the Stanford Human Performance Lab and the resident expert in biomechanics)
Cadence: How many foot-falls per minute. Lumo recommends getting this number over 180 strides per minute (this squares with scientists like Daniels, by the way)
Bounce: AKA vertical oscillation. Less the better. Bouncing lower than three inches each footstrike is the target, according to Lumo.
Brake: Each time your foot strikes the pavement, you lose a bit of speed. You want to look like the sub 2:10 hour marathoners who look like they’re barely touching the ground. Less than 1.65 foot/second is the target.
Pelvic Drop. According to Lumo, if you run knock-kneed (stepping stone to chronic knee trouble) don’t let the running shoe sales guys convince you it’s a matter of how much ‘stability’ is in your shoes. Rather, look to pelvic drop as a starting point. The Lumo measures pelvic drop by the side-to-side lowering of the pelvis in degrees. Twelve degrees of less is the goal.
Pelvic rotation. The side-to-side twisting that can lead to over-striding and all the problems over-striding creates. The Lumo device will nag you to move as if you’re pushing off, in a straight fashion, with a skateboard.
The Lumo is not going to fix your running form for you. But with or without a coach, it’s designed to help a triathlete or runner assess weaknesses that can be addressed both while running or performing running drills and with strength and mobility work to achieve the range of motion, elasticity and strength to make it happen.
For more info, go to http://lumobodytech.com.
In stock on Amazon for $99.99.