The Search for the Perfect Running Stride
I'll be the first to admit… I'd love to have the perfect running stride. Is there really a perfect stride? I don't think so. Perfection can be good to shoot for, but it's not a goal that can be reached. And, for us humans, perfection is a disappointment waiting to happen.
Is there an ideal stride? Most definitely. Here's how I define the ideal running stride: It's moving with the least amount of perceived exertion given the speed you're running or the conditions you're encountering.
This means you're constantly asking yourself the question: Am I doing everything I can to minimize my effort while meeting the demands of my current conditions.
So, the ideal stride is reachable for any given situation. But, be aware that the same stride might not apply to the next situation you run into. We are all met with continuously changing conditions whenever we run, so what might be ideal one minute will most likely not be the next minute.
Kaizen is a wonderful Japanese term I first heard about from Terry Laughlin, founder of Total Immersion Swimming. It is generally defined as: the practice of continuous improvement. It is a combination of the words: (kai) change and (zen) to become good. In ChiRunning and ChiWalking we call it the principle of Gradual Progress. But, regardless of what you call it, it seems to be quite a different approach to our culture's emphasis on instant gratification. It's different for everyone, but there are definitely principles you can use to help you achieve a lower perceived rate of exertion.
The best approach to an ideal stride must employ a whole-body system of movement while making the best use of the laws of physics. Here are four prime things to watch for when searching for that ideal stride:
- Balanced forward motion: Are you leaning from your dantien and allowing gravity to assist you?
- Relaxation: Are you holding any tension outside the use of your abs to hold you in a forward balance?
- Not landing in front of your knees: Are your feet striking ahead of your knees (creating braking) or are they bent and landing more beneath or behind your knees?
- Proportional effort distributed over the whole body: Is there any part of your body doing more than its fair share of the total workload? Are the larger muscles doing the heavy work and the smaller muscles doing the lighter work?
In the end, it comes down to, what is the best thing you could do, in this moment, to create the best results… or in this case, the ideal stride?
Perfection does happen sometimes. They're those moments of truly effortless running that just blow you away. In ChiRunning the perfect stride, for you, is the sum of many different moving parts working at their peak efficiency with no one part doing more than it’s share, or not cooperating with the other parts.
It may sound like a tall order, but when it happens, it’s not perfection, it’s magic.