By Chris Watts
In the fabulously entertaining book about the Tarahumara tribe of Copper Canyon runners up in the Sierra Madre mountain range in Mexico, Christopher McDougall, author and running adventurer, described this athletic running clan uniquely when spotting them from 3 kilometers away where he would notice the precise upright perpendicular form of these runners. They run with such an erect carriage that they are able to utilize and optimize their maximum power from toe to fingertip. Yes like me, he was convinced that alignment matters!
The elastic spring-like bounce in their gait comes from the ability of the fascia to tighten and coil in the ankle and legs and then explosively recoil and unwind as if let go by a spring. Interestingly, there is more fascia in the legs of a human than there is in the legs of a kangaroo. We just don’t use the fascia efficiently and therein lies the opportunity for runners to tap into and gain stride length and movement efficiency and ultimately power potential.
When in full swing phase we create a wave like action, almost spiral in form where our body rotates in opposition to each side transferring forces from the lift in our calves up through our most powerful connector and hip and pelvic balancer the Gluteals that rotate the pelvis driving one hip back and the other forward and simultaneously through intra abdominal bracing the spinal straightens and stabilizes. As the arms push forward the shoulder-blades on the forward moving arm flare outwards via the power generated from the latissimus dorsi the largest muscle in our bodies creating a powerful forward momentum right through our fingertips. If you understand the mechanics and the kinetic chain of movements you will learn to use this hidden fascia to build form and speed and ultimately “The bounce.”
Dinosaurs, the quickest bi-peds to roam our planet, used their tails to balance their gait and we use our gluteals to do the same. They keep our back and pelvis upright and supported. As well as giving us the push off that propels us forward. Strength in these huge prime movers is essential. All running specific fitness programs should include Gluteal, Lat Dorsi, and calf flexibility, stability, and strength protocols to give you the lift, the spring and the acceleration.
We like to promote “Low Force High Velocity” training where you would indeed perform box jumps with lightweights before doing squats and adding jump split squats before doing backward lunges. Skipping is always part of the training to build the elastic recoil in the fascia around the calves and ankles. The idea is that you use the fascial spring to propel you as easily up the hill as if you were running down it. It is better to try to use nature and natural movements as your resistance training. Exercising with nature such as climbing, crawling jumping and throwing are all based on elastic strength not muscular strength.
We divide the body into 2 parts the phasic musculature, which are your prime movement mussels mostly, found in the front of your body. Then the postural muscles that are mainly found in the back or posterior chain. It is this area that we need to spend more time on strengthening in order to keep the frame bolt upright and efficient. This will also ensure that our center of mass is in the correct position, where the main postural and structural support is coming from the bony structures and not from the muscular and soft tissue structures.
Remember muscles facilitate joints to move and they also act as cushions and shock absorbers to the musculoskeletal system. This whole mechanical and functional system is designed to float vertically on each and every joint and bone No rigidity anywhere. This is the friction free movement that we look for in everyone who is embarking on a mobility program. Optimize position, rebalance the musculature and then neurologically re-engage the movement deficiencies.
Circulation in terms of arterial and venous flow will massively improve boosting uptake of oxygen levels into the cells and mitochondria, our power generators. Water flow improves as well as lymphatic return. More importantly this even distribution of the downward forces of gravity and the compression forces upon the joints will diminish and the chances of experiencing discomfort and irritation to the soft tissue will be severely decreased.
As Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of Gravity states that for every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction. If we are optimally aligned we distribute those forces in balance. This should be the goal of every runner and every sports person. Your body will be forever profoundly grateful.
For more information on Motion Dynamics please go to:www.chriswatts.biz or contact Chris on +852 97772453