Reviewing the stride and where the foot lands in proportion to the body is an important focus.

Hard work pays off. It’s a mantra that I remind myself of on a regular basis, sometimes during a grueling, miserable workout. But, it’s never been more true than in the last year. I owe a lot to my run coach for getting me to the start line as a faster, stronger, more competitive athlete. Like many high level athletes, my run coach got his start running when he was young. Now, even as a Master’s athlete and full-time coach, he continues to win road races and track meets. Under his coaching expertise our team has grown to be one of the fastest in our local area.

Over the past five years that I have been coached by Dan, I have benefited from his expert coaching and I feel lucky to have him in my corner. His challenging workouts and race strategies have been vital to my success. But one of the most important ways he has helped me become stronger and faster is his attention to my running mechanics on and off the track. In my last post, I shared the scoop from my physical therapist, Brian, about the importance of gait analysis and how good running mechanics can make you a more efficient runner.

Besides a formal gait analysis, I’ve learned from Dan that there are other things you can do to help improve running mechanics. So, to give you the “on the track” scoop, I asked him how he works with his athletes to help them become more efficient, stronger runners.

Why is it important to focus on running mechanics?

We spend the first 15-20 minutes of track working on plyometric and form drills. It’s so important that we spend time breaking down our running and concentrating on specific parts of running. As we become more efficient with better mechanics we should see improvements in performance and more importantly, injury prevention.

Comparing the two photos shows the improvement in the top image
Before and after: The top image was taken in May 2015 and shows the improved knee flexion angle. The bottom shows where I was back in January 2015. Dan attributes the improvement to the drills we do at least twice a week.

What do you look for when you analyze our running mechanics?

The first thing I look for is body alignment and positioning, ideally a forward lean, not sitting back through the hips. This is fairly simple to correct but one of the most common issues I see, especially as the runner becomes fatigued. Next, I look at foot strike, primarily looking where it occurs. Does it land in front of the body or directly underneath? Also, I look for symmetry with both feet. From there I go on to cadence and arm carriage and any other flaws or issues that may stand out. 

You have access to a lot of great technology, do you use any tech to assist with analyzing mechanics? How does it work?

Definitely, there are a lot of great tools today. It’s still very important to watch the athletes at practice. A lot of times we can make simple changes while at the track. Other times we use video, and I have two different systems that I use.

One is video analysis software called MotionViewTM. Within the program, we can analyze multiple screens and synchronize them together in slow motion. This allows us to look at specific angles, stride length, foot strike and the overall mechanics. It’s great to compare videos from early season and late season to make sure we are continuing in the correct direction. I also use a similar scaled back version on my iPhone and/or iPad for quick analysis.

With both, I can record and send a quick video clip with comments to the athlete. I’m also a Beta tester for a new product which provides 3D insight into the mechanics of how you run by capturing 13 kinematic metrics. As this product gets closer to market, I will be able to provide more information.

Correcting minor running mechanics issues could improve running speed and efficiency.
This shows my body alignment and positioning, and where my foot lands.

What do you do with your athletes to help them improve their mechanics?

I believe it’s really important to spend time with drills. I have been running and racing for many years and I still spend time each week working on specific drills in my own training whether it is cadence, arm swing or foot strike. As we go through the drills in practice, it’s important to not just go through the motion but to focus on the specific benefits of the drills. There is a reason why we do them. If you spend time and work on them, you will improve your mechanics and running efficiency.

Better mechanics mean faster, more efficient (and injury-free!) running

As a competitive athlete, I make it a point to work on my mechanics on a regular basis. But even if you are running non-competitively, working on mechanics is important to keep you injury free.   

Learn more about Dan and how he works with athletes to help them reach their fitness goals.

What questions do you have about running mechanics? Have you tried drills or worked with a coach? Let me know in the comments!

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