Often the question is asked, should I run differently if I’m on the soccer field or basketball court, as opposed to distance running? The answer is a nice straightforward yes, and no. The physics of how the body works remain the same, but with a team sport the context changes very rapidly. In order to successfully play a team sport, a lot of stability is needed with side-to-side movements, so a quick cut can be made or so you don’t get tackled as easily. But it’s also helpful to be able to turn the jets on when a straight run is warranted, think a wide receiver getting loose in the open field, or a soccer player with a breakaway.
This brings us to this week’s star performer. Cooper is a former high school state champion mid-distance runner who has turned to ultimate frisbee in recent years. Let’s see what he looks like initially.
As you can see, his elbows are sticking out to the side and his arm swing is a little high in general. This is very common with team sport athletes, which again comes from the context of making lateral movements while running. Again, this can be a positive thing in the midst of a sport, but is a very inefficient way to run in a straight line. What this indicates is that his hips are not as stable as they should be while he is running, so carrying his arms high and elbows out helps to make up for that. Picture someone walking a tightrope carrying a long pole, the extra width makes balancing easier, and Cooper has figured out a way to make his upper body act as a pole.
He is also taking rather long strides and overstriding, and these are different things. Overstriding refers to where the foot hits the ground relative to where the body is at that moment, so anytime the foot strikes way out in front of the body is an overstride. One of the things to look for to discern if this is going on, is to look for the bottoms of his shoes when he is running directly toward the camera.
As another assessment, we had him run with his hands directly overhead. What this does is take away his cheating upper body and raises his center of gravity, essentially making it more difficult to balance. It’s interesting to see how his hips and lower core respond to this.
It certainly looks more awkward, but his overstride goes away, so this is helpful to give us some direction for making him more efficient. As a form drill and core training move, we simply had him hold light dumbbells overhead, further raising the center of gravity and forcing his hips to work harder.
He also did A-drills to develop proper foot strike closer to his body to avoid the overstride and keep his stride lengths more moderate. The key with this drill is to snap the foot straight up and strike it straight back down.
So after all this, here’s the new and improved Cooper.
His foot strike looks significantly better as his overstride is diminished. His upper body also looks more efficient as his arms are lower and elbows closer in. This indicates that he is engaging his hips more effectively. He certainly needs to perform these drills regularly and will see significant gains with his efficiency. Great job Cooper!