-New research highlights
a difference between the strides of elite runners and
highly trained sub-elite runners—Elite runners stay
in the air longer because they have more bounce in their
-To refine your own running efficiency, researchers suggest
running more hills, doing more speedwork, including more
plyometrics drills and strength training in your cross
training, and running on diverse surfaces
Elite runners are rightfully
lauded for their speed, but their performance comes not
only from forward momentum. A new study in Scientific
Reports suggests they also have much more bounce than
other runners, even those who are highly trained.
Researchers had 10 sub-4
minute milers and 10 highly trained non-elite participants
run on a treadmill outfitted with a pressure plate under
the belt, which indicated the amount of time they spent
in the air compared to in contact with the ground.
They found that elite runners
are in the air longer than non-elite runners, but it’s
not because they’re pushing off from the ground
at an angle. Instead, they bounce upward.
The study’s lead author,
Geoff Burns, Ph.D., a sport science postdoctoral research
fellow at the Performance Research Lab at the University
of Michigan, told Runner’s World the takeaway here
is that elite runners have conditioned their bodies to
behave as “stiffer” mechanical systems.
“They were like pogo
sticks that were slightly more upright with stiffer springs,”
he said. “They had a quicker, more efficient relationship
with the ground.” This is similar to how many types
of animals run, he added, because it tends to require
Burns—an elite runner
himself, who has represented the United States at world
championships in the 50K and 100K distances—added
that runners who try to emulate this stiffness in their
stride consciously should approach with caution. It’s
not a matter of changing your stride to get more air;
the whole body needs to work together in a specific way,
rather than just a few parts of it. For example, suddenly
bouncing more could create more tension in your lower
body muscles, and that might lead to an overuse injury.
That said, the research results
can be helpful to those who want to keep refining their
“Do things in training
that stress the system as a whole, and challenge it to
rearrange its spring-like behavior,” he suggested.
-Running up and down hills
-Running on different surfaces
-Wear different shoes to modulate body stiffness
-Do sprints, intervals, or fartlek training to modify
-Try plyometric drills, which can naturally induce stiffer
-Cross train with resistance training
“These are all methods that elite runners do in
a regimented fashion, so incorporating some of those elements
may help casual runners enhance their own relationship
with the ground,” he said.
ELIZABETH MILLARD IS A FREELANCE WRITER FOCUSING ON HEALTH,
WELLNESS, FITNESS, AND FOOD.