I’ve asked a number of elite athletes this question and it always ends with head-scratching. Even though they’ve executed these simple movements thousands of times, they don’t have the words to describe them. And if you can’t tell me how to run, you can’t train yourself to be faster beyond a certain point.
It’s crazy to think top, Division 1 athletes don’t know how to run. But think about it… Who taught you to run? How did they teach you? Beyond a coach telling you to run faster, did they give you more specific instructions or drills to develop your running to excel in your sport? Probably not. Because most athletes and coaches don’t know how to run.
In all my research on sports biometrics and physics, it comes down to one thing, which is F=MA. Force equals mass times acceleration. It’s also a derivative of the velocity equation, which is “distance = rate X time” or “rate = distance/time”. How do you make an object move and accelerate? What vectors play a role in top-end speed and deceleration? F=MA encompasses velocity and covers the explanation of movement.
Imagine you’re on an unplugged treadmill...
How could you get the treadmill’s belt surface to turn?
Answer: You have to push the belt back with your feet
How can you make the belt turn faster?
Answer: Push harder.
The mechanics of running
F=MA is the most important equation to understand “how to run”. Then it’s about influencing force and at which angle it should be applied, which brings us to turnover and turnover speed. Turnover is the action of the leg moving in a revolution, which you can measure by how long the foot takes to get back to the ground. Since running is a vector and has direction, faster turnover with greater output brings about greater acceleration.
You can only influence force by pushing off the ground. This statement is only somewhat true. If you look at the potential energy equation (PE=mgh), notice the “h” or height. The higher your leg, the more potential energy it has. To keep it simple, you can influence force with how high your leg comes up and the amount of force you apply when actively pushing your foot back towards the ground. In turn, you can influence turnover at two points in the cycle.
Energy is everything
Kinetic energy and potential energy applied to F=MA explains an object in motion. If you want to influence acceleration, you need to apply force. When you apply forces in the right direction, it results in “speed”. When running, force and turnover speed are used to analyze an athlete’s optimal level. By making the right adjustments to mechanics and force output, you can greatly improve an athlete’s performance and competitive advantage.
2 of 20 Drills to improve your running
Turnover drills: The first and most important part of running is developing the proper path of foot travel with both front-side and back-side mechanics.
Find a wall and take 1 giant set away from it.
Face the wall, lean forward, keep your arms fully extended and your place hands on the wall.
Lean forward, drive one knee up to your chest and hold it. Lift your other heel to bring you on your toes.
As you drive your foot back to the ground, keep the front foot flexed. Your foot strike should land directly underneath your body.
After your foot comes in contact with the ground, the backside mechanics begin. While keeping your foot flexed, pull your moving leg heel towards your glute.
Once your heel gets close to your glute, drive your heel through your other knee.
Repeat. As you get the path down, you can slowly add in speed.
Progressive cone drill or push off drills: Understand the difference between a push and a pull to develop better force output and application.
Place 8 cones in a line at 3ft, 3.5ft, 4ft, 4.5ft, 5ft, 5.5ft, 6ft, 6.5ft (as you do this drill, you will find out your terminal distance)
Line up behind the cones and get into a sprinter stance with one leg in front and opposite arm in front.
Run over the cones by landing one leg between each cone. In order to make it to the next cone, you must apply greater force with each step.
If you come up short, and it becomes difficult to get to the next cone, take note of the distance that you can successfully complete. Move the remaining cones to that distance.