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Orange County, California

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  • Greg Hodel

A way to break down a big goal into smaller goals.

How much do all of the components of running mechanics contribute to running speed and to exceeding a personal best? Not only are there many components in one stride, but there are many strides that contribute to the performance in a race. The challenge is to have all of the components connected and coordinated in every stride for optimal performance. Optimizing every stride is challenging, but the number of strides also provides an opportunity in that small improvements in each stride add up to larger improvements over the length of the race. The fastest male sprinters take around 41 to 44 strides in a 100 m. race. Consider the example of the second place runner taking 44 strides and losing by 1 m. If he could have traveled further with each stride in the same amount of time, he would have won. If the second place runner in this example could travel and average of 2.3 centimeters further in each stride, then he would win. This is over simplified, but it helps to show the importance of all of the small contributions that each component can make to running speed. For example if a stride is broken down into the phases of 1) accelerating the foot before ground contact, 2) pulling on the ground, 3) curling the leg, and 4) rotating the knee forward, an improvement in each phase could be considered as contributing a small increase in the distance traveled during the stride. Hypothetically if each phase can contribute 0.5 cm of distance traveled, then together they could increase the stride length by 2 cm. The improvement in each phase of the stride can’t be measured, but thinking about the mechanics like this could be a way to break a big goal into smaller goals.

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