Biomechanics: The missing link?

At Front Runner Sports, we believe that every runner should feel equal satisfaction and receive equal support in pursuit on their personal goals. Our “Performance Model” of service for all runners encompasses 3 main “ingredients” – Physiology, Psychology and Biomechanics modified by “external factors” like physical attributes and environment to dictate the runners outcomes. As our community has grown, it has become increasingly clear that Biomechanics, or movement awareness and quality, is the most widespread cultural weakness in our running populations.

To analyse this with some context, a nice comparison is to contrast swimming and running development in Australia. Few would argue that swimming has been a more prosperous and vibrant culture in Australia over the past 2-3 decades at major championships and Olympic Games level than that of running.

The divergent culture for both sports in Australia starts from an extremely young age and has significant long term implications to the end stage outcomes we see in both sports. In our children, in every town or region we will identify  “Baby Swim” and “Learn to Swim” classes as culturally normal and a well established stage of normal child development. In comparison, running has little or no comparable programmes that truly help our children to develop good quality technique and running form. It is fair to say that swimming safety is extremely important for risk and community safety in our country but from this foundation comes increasingly divergent skill development and ultimately performance outcomes in both populations.

From an education perspective, the “learn to swim” model creates awareness of  what constitutes good movement  and from a skill development perspective, our swimmers have an early, regular and direct relationship with the water they are seeking to move through. Contrastingly, our young runners receive little or no education on good or bad running technique and continue to lose that “feel” for the ground through reduced levels of physical activity and use of structured and rigid footwear. If we look at a run specific comparison cultural comparison, it is widely agreed that young Kenyan children develop their feel for the ground with active lifestyles and longer periods spent without footwear or wearing less supportive footwear at a young age. It is no surprise that over 200 of the fastest 250 Marathon runners in the world emerge from Kenya where this development is maintained and athletes have a greater platform to increase training loads and performance standards as they mature.

Looking further ahead at the swim vs run comparison, in adult swimming and triathlon groups around the country, it is normal for a warm up to be followed by swimming specific technique drills to continue focussing on skill development. In contrast, in our own population of many hundred adult runners, less than 5% have ever completed running drills or been educated on what constitutes good running technique before joining our training community.

So what does this mean for our model? Needless to say, education on good biomechanics and technique is taking on an ever increasing role in our technique workshops, while in our training groups appropriate dynamic running drills are now incorporated into all interval and tempo training sessions to continue a longitudinal focus on skill development. Furthermore, with our programmed athletes and consulting clients we now have a comprehensive range of technique analysis options ranging from Clinical 2D Analysis (Physio), 2D Functional Analysis (Coach) through to our gold standard 3D Analysis

Most significantly however, is the instigation of a long term “learn to run” programme focussing on children’s running coaching. Our aim with this programme is to try and directly improve the issues we see as effecting the running population by increasing education and focus on biomechanics and movement quality in young runners. This will incorporate our Trackstars programme to help build a better running culture in our community so that our young runners are given every opportunity to be their best and also extensive consulting to schools and sporting groups to help coaches and parents better understand running mechanics and performance.

It is set to be an exciting process and we are excited to watch as the programme develops and creates some changes necessary to see an improved running culture in our community.

Running Regards,

Rafael Baugh (B.Sc Physio, Level 2 AA)

Managing Director

Front Runner Sports Management

Kids Running