Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Experiment: Running Form

I mentioned in my weekly review about trying a new running form.  My concern was that it would quicken my pace and tax my cardio system because of it.  So I decided to attempt an experiment.  I know I'm suppose to do some hypothesis and theorems and stuff, but I forgot science stuff a long time ago.

Environment:  A 1/4 mile-ish loop at the middle school next to my house.  It provided a consistent environment for the test.

I did two loops per test.  I wanted to try the test at my long-run pace (which is apparently 160 strides per minute) for each form.  I also wanted to pick-up the pace to the recommended 180 strides per minute per form as well.  I've read that 180 strides per minute is some magic number in running.  Whatever, I'm game  This presented four total tests.  Before starting a test, I let my heart rate settle back to 110 bpm.  Don't know why I used 110 but I tried to be consistent.

I did a warm-up prior to the tests to get my body ready.

In an attempt to measure accurately, I used my Garmin watch to measure cadence and heart rate.  Heart rate would provide the perceived exertion.  The higher the average heart rate per test, the more exertion.  I tried to make speed less of a factor as it can be somewhat inaccurate in short distances on GPS watches but I'll mention it.  Here are the results:

Curr -> Current Form (more vertical and landing mostly flat footed)
New -> New Form: Focusing on having the 'power curve' or 'power arch' discussed here.
cdn -> Cadence.  I have a footpod on my left shoe.  Multiply by 2 to get the total stride per minute.

So the new form does take roughly 50 seconds off my pace and increases my heart rate 7 to 8 beats per minute. A 10% reduction in time for a 5% increase taxing of the cardio system. That 10% reduction in time is enough to qualify for Boston though with the faster cadence. (.5 miles does not make a 26.2 mile effort, though).

Analysis of Data
While I attempted to control as much of the variables as possible in this test, the biggest thing is that my body was not accustomed to the new form. I'm moving more muscles with the longer stride so they may not be as prepared. I think that partially contributed to the higher HR. I'll work on improving the new form and give the test again in a few months to see what results I have. I'll probably stick with the 160 strides per minute initially until I'm comfortable with the form and then move it to a higher cadence. I normally target the higher cadence anyway.

I did this test on Monday night and did a run tonight down at English Landing Park (a mostly flat 3 mile loop).    I had a mostly consistent 80 cadence and was pretty consistent with an 8 minute mile.  This was after a full hour on the trainer with the bike (at a 16.2 mph pace).  In other words, my system was relatively tired and I was able to keep this pace.  Looking forward to see how this progresses.


  1. I love the comparison...also super jealous of that bottom number! looking forward to an update on this in the future. I might have to add this experiment to my to-do list