Friday, July 31, 2009

Running Economy: From your Heels to Your Arms

Two interesting studies caught my attention today (from posts on One study comes from 2008 and claims that the shorter your heel is the more competitive you will be at distance running. In the study by Melanie Scholz, of the VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, heel length was measured as the average of the horizontal distance between the ankle bone and the Achilles tendon on the inside and outside of the leg. The shorter the distance, the more energy your Achilles tendon can store. The stored energy gets released as you lift your foot off the ground. The study monitored 15 professional runners as they ran on a treadmill. Those with shorter heels had lower oxygen intake, indicating greater running efficiency. Now there is something else us slow guys can blame our parents for: thick heel lengths! By the way, when looking at the guy in the picture above, I should be faster than he is!

Well there is not much we can do to improve on things in our heels, but another study I saw relates to arm swing in walking. Steven Collins, of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, headed a study that shows that arm swinging is an integral part of the energy economy of human gait. The study which came out on Wednesday explains why we swing our arms when we walk, even when it takes more energy to do so. They looked at volunteers who were asked to walk with a normal swing, an opposite-to-normal swing, with their arms folded or their arms held by their sides.

The science is interesting, but I found this study most interesting in the light of some of the Feldenkrais exercises I have been doing this week based on the book "Running with the Whole Body". I learned that when I walk, I swing my right shoulder opposite of the right hip like I should, however my left shoulder seems to move in sync with my left hip (the opposite to normal swing-walk normally and see what your shoulder does, then walk with your arm straight down holding onto your thigh-notice what your shoulder does here-that is what my shoulder seems to do on the left side when I walk and run). This might be one pattern throwing off my running stride; creating imbalances, falls, and injuries. Besides the metabolic savings that I can gain when I straighten things out, I hope to find that I gain more coordination and balance as well as a greater ease in running. Who knows I may even get some speed back to make up for having thick heels

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