Dr. Yessis was kind enough to submit the following thought-provoking entry for the elitetrack blog. He brings up some great points that are quite similar to ones I have raised on this site’s forum before.
I am always surprised at the number of runners and coaches fromaround the country, who strongly believe that you should neverchange running technique. They have been indoctrinated with themyth that the body will automatically adapt itself to the most efficientrunning technique. In other words, every runner will automatically runaccording to his or her maximum efficiency. They believe that thishappens automatically and that the more running you do, the morequickly you will find the best running gait for yourself.
To a certain extent this is true as you may develop the most efficienttechnique in relation to energy expenditure. But this does not meanthat it is the most effective technique for production of speed and/or distance. Technique should always be adjusted and fine-tunedespecially as the runner improves in his physical abilities. Forexample as a runner becomes stronger it will change and modifyhis technique which may or may not be the most effective. Adjustingtechnique in relation to the increased strength then becomesnecessary.
Running, just as every other athletic skill, must be learned if you wantto be an effective and efficient performer. There is no questioning thefact that we are born with some ability to run. But the technique is inrudimentary form. What you do as a youngster then determines whatyour final technique will look like.
If you wish to excel in running and become as proficient as possible,then you must work on improving running technique. To also furtherenhance your physical running abilities, you must develop thephysical qualities that are needed. This includes not only specialmuscular strength and endurance to enable you to go the distance,but also an efficient cardiovascular and respiratory system to supplythe energy needed for the run.
For maximum running efficiency and effectiveness, you must learnand improve some of the key elements of technique and incorporatethem into your running. They will not happen automatically. Forexample, most runners are heel hitters, but if you land on your heelyou are interfering with your running efficiency and effectiveness andmore importantly, this is not a natural movement. You learned it. Ifyou do not believe this, simply take off your shoes and run barefootlanding on your heel. If you run on asphalt or concrete, I guaranteethat you will be unable to run because of the pain experienced onevery landing.
Making changes in technique is not always very easy, but the mostimportant factor to be considered, is that changes are possible. Youcan change technique (and your physical qualities) to become a moreproficient runner. To make the changes as easily as possible, youshould do specialized strength exercises that duplicate the sameneuromuscular pathway that is involved in the specific joint action.In this way you can strengthen specific running muscles and at thesame time develop a muscular feel for the action. Once you developthis muscular feel and the physical ability to execute an effective jointaction, then you can incorporate it into the total running stride.
The key to successfully making changes in technique is to first havea very good understanding of what is involved in running techniqueso that you can determine exactly which joint action is lacking andis in need of correction or enhancement. In this way any changethat is made will show up as a positive influence on the runner’srunning. The adage, “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” is a myth and holdsback progress. If you want to be a better runner, improvement intechnique is first and foremost. As technique is perfected you mustalso develop the physical qualities related to the technique for evengreater effectiveness.