Jargon buster - Running

This is where a runner’s foot hits the ground and begins to take the load of their body.

It should take place under their centre of gravity and therefore it is important not to try to force an elongated stride.

If you try to force your stride to lengthen and the contact takes place even fractionally in front of your normal centre of gravity, it can see a dissipation of some of the elastic energy stored in your achilles during this phase.

Once the foot lands, the knee and ankle will flex, and the foot pronates (see below) to absorb the weight of the body.

The goal of this phase is to reduce the length of the contact whilst allowing sufficient time for the foot to take the body’s load and produce elastic energy in the achilles.

After contact, the propulsion phase utilises the elastic energy stored briefly in the achilles and force provided by muscular contractions in the claves, hamstrings and glutes.

After contact, the bodyweight shifts forward into the runner’s big toe, the hip extends driving the foot down and back and the runner forward.

This phase starts as soon as the foot leaves the ground as is characterised by the hip fully flexing and the knee bending with the heel being kicked up towards the runner’s backside.

Next the hip flexors will contract and draw the upper leg forward.

This is where the recovering leg swings through in preparation for the next contact phase.  It is either a relatively passive instinctive action or if running hard will be driven by the hip flexors and quads.

The hip flexors will draw the leg through and the knee will extend until the lower leg is perpendicular to the floor with a slightly dorsi-flexed ankle (toes slightly raised).

If the runner tries to extend their stride and over-extends, it can be counterproductive as when the recovering foot finally contacts the floor, because it is in front of the runner’s centre of gravity it can act like a brake on their momentum and weight transfer.

Cadence is how quickly a runner’s foot meets the floor over a given time, normally a minute. A cadence of around 90-95 strides per minute is generally considered ideal for distance runners.

Stride length is not the same as step length, which is the distance between foot contacts.

Stride length is the distance between two consecutive strikes of the same foot and along with cadence, is a an important factor in how quick a runner is.

Pronation describes the foot’s movement upon contact.  Typically, the foot initially strikes the floor on the outside edge, about mid-foot.

It then rolls inwards allowing the impact of the contact phase to dissipate to protect your joints.

Over-pronation is when the foot rolls in excessively causing the knees or hips to collapse inwards.  It can be caused by either muscular weaknesses or mechanical issues.

Your lactate threshold can be described quite simply as the point at which your body shifts from working predominantly aerobically to anaerobically.

Your body is no longer able to consume enough oxygen to recycle the lactate that begins to accumulate in your blood.  Fatigue will begin to set in as there isn’t enough oxygen to buffer the lactic acid build up and the increased concentration of hydrogen ions that are believed to be the source of the pain you feel when fatiguing.

Speed training is exactly what is sounds like.  Training to improve your top end speed and speed endurance.

For an endurance athlete, it is characterised by shorter explosive intervals of anything between 400m to a mile.

Tempo training consists of longer intervals at an effort of around 7-8/10 and seeks to elevate an athlete’s lactate threshold (see above) so they can run harder for longer.

These are an athlete’s ‘base’ mileage.  These should not just be long steady state miles, although a certain amount of such training is important for confidence levels.  Endurance training should at times also incorporate burst of intensity to force the athlete to experience recovering on the move.

For a runner to develop in a rounded manner, they should incorporate elements of speed, tempo and endurance work in their overall training plan.