Friday, August 11

Run like a kangeroo?

Two Dutch coaches and scientists have come up with a way of teaching running technique that draws not only on their knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics, but also on the study of the natural motion of animals.

Surprisingly, one of their models is the kangeroo. Many runners spend a lot of time trying to eliminate "bounce" in favour of straight-line power transfer. These guys suggest this might not be helpful.

Most people think that running itself is a "natural" activity and we don't need to be taught how to do it. Wrong! We may start out running efficiently and gracefully as children, but soon lose the skill. I've been privileged to learn from great coaches such as Bobby McGee and Dr Nicholas Romanov, the originator of the Pose Method of running. Adapting my style according to their precepts has sliced whole minutes off my race times without any additional effort.

So, I am open to the idea that running should and can be taught. But kangeroos? I took this up with Functional Training guru Vern Gambetta, who is recommending a DVD on the new technique -- called the BK Method -- on his website.

I asked him why he was so enamoured of BK. "Apart from the fact that I'm not convinced the kangaroo is a particularly apt model for human running, I can't see anyone in middle/long distance running of any note who is using this method -- for example Gebreselassie, Tergat, Kosgei -- you name it", I told him.

One of the runners the Dutch coaches identify as being one of their stars is Ellen van Langen. Well, she won the Olympic 800 metres in 1992 and retired in 1998 after having been "plagued by injuries" (to quote Wikipedia). I don't think these guys had even thought of their method 14 years ago. What's more, Holland is not exactly a world leader in distance running. So why does Vern like BK so much that he is championing it in the US?

Vern replied that the blokes behind BK -- Frans Bosch and Ronald Klomp -- have also written a book on running, which seems to be what convinced him.

"The Kangaroo and animal locomotion are great sources of information for bettering human locomotion. (Read Principles of Animal Locomotion by R. McNeill Alexander). I recommend you read the book before making further judgment", he said.

"Here are two coaches, who are also sports scientists who went out on a limb and looked at running a bit differently. The whole issue of stiffness is explored quite. Also the mechanics that they speak about are what great runners do. They have put this in context. After you read the book and have questions email them to me. I am going to meet the authors in Holland in October. Also a further affirmation is when someone like Gary Winckler, the greatest sprint and hurdle coach in the world, thinks there is something there I listen."

OK. So I ordered the book (see link below -- I got the last one on Amazon, but they must be getting some more in!). Then I went to Bosch and Klomp's website on the DVD: beautifully produced, with loads of fascinating clips and some stunning visuals. Well worth a look. Of course, I had to get that too! So, I'll be reporting back.

Meanwhile, I don't think I'll be bounding down Pearl Street next week... but maybe afterwards I'll experiment a little.

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