“Running is not typically thought of as a power sport, but it truly is. Power is the rapid application of force. In the case of running, power has to do with the rapid application of force to the ground, which then returns this energy to the foot, propelling the body forward. The more force your foot applies to the ground, and the less time it takes to apply it, the more powerfully the ground will push your body forward.” (“Run Faster” by Brad Hudson/Matt Fitzgerald)
When you don’t apply this force what can happen is that the body absorbs the landing, and the energy then becomes ‘blah’ in a sense. You see someone who runs softly, you see their body collapse with each foot strike. They are essentially running as if they are on a mattress. This is especially true for beginner runners and runners as they age.
You can also think of yourself as a plane landing on a runway: If you don’t have the stiff landing gear, or your tires aren’t inflated well enough, you’re not going to be able to land that plane properly (or land at all).
We always think about where we should land, but we never think about HOW we should land. How to best get the most bang for our buck so to speak. There is a great proprioception drill that I’ve put in some of the run workouts (I bet almost all of you have ignored those as well….Ruth?). My favorite is from Matt Fitzgerald’s book ‘Brain Training for Runners’
“Pounding The Ground: Most runners are taught to run as softly as possible. In fact, running speed is almost entirely a function of how forcefully you hit the ground with your feet. The typical runner – especially the over striding runner – allows the foot to fall passively to the ground with each stride. Instead, practice actively driving your feet into the ground. Be sure to give a somewhat backward pull to this driving movement rather than completely vertical movement. Also, if you are currently a heel striker (overstrider), work on shortening your stride and landing flat footed before using this drill, which teaches you to stiffen your stride, thrust earlier, and minimize ground contact time.
In regards to this drill, make sure that you’re leaning from the ankles as well. Just try this drill for brief periods during your next run, and see how it feels, and if it changes anything.
These…“ballistic muscle actions are short and fast rather than sustained and gentle. Many distance runners believe that the ideal pattern of muscle action during running is sustained and gentle. The idea is to use energy evenly throughout the stride, landing softly, staying relaxed, and avoiding wasteful peaks and lazy valleys in muscle work. In reality, the best runners have a ballistic style of running. They contract their muscles extremely forcefully – much more forcefully than the average runners do during a small slice of the overall stride that begins in the moment of bracing for impact, continues through a very brief ground contact phase, and terminates at push-off. This anticipatory tensing of the muscles is a major factor in creating the stiffness that enables particular leg muscles and tendons to capture more elastic energy when they are forced to stretch on footstrike.. They hen relax their muscles as they float in the air between footstrikes, and they spend much more time floating between footstrikes than the average runners do.”
“…You will see them stiffen their leg before the footstrike, and then drive their foot into the ground, almost seeming to bounce off it.”