I’ve been a lifelong runner starting with sprint and middle distances on the track in middle and high school, and then started 2 mile runs during my time in the military, eventually moving into marathons, triathlons, and every distance in between. I had a break from running to focus on training for the Race Across America cycling race in 2016, and took nearly a year off of running completely for the first time in my life since I started. Coming back from that I felt that my stride had changed quite a bit, it just didn’t feel the same. Some days I would feel like my old self, some days not so much, there were definitely some changes that had occurred.
After a video analysis session one of the key takeaways that was brought to my attention was that there was too much vertical oscillation in my stride. I was moving upwards with every stride quite a bit. I needed more horizontal propulsion with less vertical oscillation in my stride for better economy, especially over long distance. I’ve always been a “bouncy runner”, so I knew I was not going to be able to eliminate it completely, but I did need to focus as much of that energy that I could into the forward motion. Over the last year I’ve been working on this to bring about the changes that I need in my stride. First and foremost, being aware that this was going on has helped me to be conscious of my movement. Secondly, I have incorporated drills in my workouts to help achieve the correct motor patterns that I am looking for.
Back to basics... when aiming to improve your running economy, awareness of where the ground is in relation to your body is paramount. Let the ground come to you. We make contact with the ground, and the ground pushes back. The body reads this impact and decides how much force to then apply for propulsion. The more focused contacts we have with the ground the better our awareness is. I always used to incorporate drills in my warm up or cool down sessions but I had gotten away from this because I wasn’t running at all, then when I started running again I was neglecting them. My go to drills are butt kicks, A-skips, ankle hops, and strides aka pick-ups often after my workouts. While these additions do not make up the bulk of my training, without them something just wasn’t right. Additionally, I started paying closer attention, otherwise known as being very present, in my workouts in order to run “quietly” and minimize bounce. After six months of focus I have consistently lowered my vertical oscillation by around 10%.
While I was worried after RAAM that I would not be able to run fast again I can say that the speed and economy are now coming back to me.