Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Category: "Running"

Day 340 - Running Speed

The mechanics involved in human running is substantially different than when walking. When human beings walk, the body rotates through various positions including balancing on one leg, while the weight shifts from one leg to both legs, to again on one leg. There is a cadence that rotates through these general positions.

Running, on the other hand, is more of a ballistic action with the body continually launching its weight from one leg to the other. The speed at which someone runs is directly linked to the stride frequency to stride length relationship. For example, when comparing novice to elite sprinters, studies have shown that elite sprinters achieve greater stride length and can increase it further up to about 45m from a static start of a race. Compare this to novice sprinters who peak their stride length around the 25m mark of a race from a static start.

When comparing novice to elite stride frequency, elite sprinters can achieve faster slightly higher frequencies (~5/second) and maintain that pace for a longer period of time compared to novices. When you think about the mechanics behind sprinting, it is easy to understand that a sprinter that has a high turnover stride (stride frequency) and is pushing off for more power (stride length) will elicit a greater speed.

One thing to understand, however, is that due to varying leg lengths amongst different individuals, stride length is difficult at times to train. Stride frequency, however, can be trained effectively to increase running speed.

Sprinting Performance and Stride Analysis

Below is a summarized list of the major muscular requirements during sprinting:

1. As the back (recovery) leg swings forward, eccentric knee flexion controls its forward momentum, prepares it for an efficient foot strike.

2. Muscle action then shifts from eccentric to concentric action and continues to the support phase (leg beneath center of gravity) which transfers power to the leg.

3. During the ground support phase, the high joint angle at the planted foot allows for stored elastic energy. Eccentric knee extensor activity also allows the quads to store and recover elastic energy.

4. There is a triple extension from the ankle, knee, and hip all at once allowing for propulsion and drive forward.

Training Goals

To maximize sprinting speed, I have listed a few training goals below that can help in running efficiency:

Minimize Braking - By aiming to plant the supporting foot directly beneath the center of gravity and maximizing the backward velocity of that leg during the propulsion phase will minimize the braking effect of forward momentum.

Fast Foot Strike - By increasing stride frequency and backward propulsion, you minimize the amount of time the foot has contact with the ground, therefore minimizing the braking effect of forward momentum.


Quote of the day:
"Formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil."
~ J. Paul Getty

Check out my new Website: tylerrobbinsfitness.com






Day 195 - Long Distance Running Tips


I have recently gained more interest in running which is surprising to me. Now I would never refer to myself as a seasoned distance runner that runs marathons all the time, but I have run 2 half marathons (21km) in September 2010 and October 2011, which gave me that "runner's high" and a new-found love for running. Not only that, but for those of you who don't follow my blog consistently, I competed in my first ever Tough Mudder event in August of this year (16km) and will be competing in the World's Toughest Mudder on November 17th.

I have always been a pretty decent runner. As a child, my parents tell me that all I would do is run laps of our street asking them to "time me, time me". I have also played soccer my entire life which, as many of you know, is very running-intensive.

The fascination or attraction to running, as runners will tell you, is that "high" you get during, and following a race, where your hormones and endorphins are flowing, giving you a very 'feel good' response in your body. On top of that, running long distances can give an amazing sense of accomplishment when you then think back to the distance that you just conquered!

Running and swimming are great ways to measure your overall fitness as well. I am a terrible swimmer, so alas, I run. It is great to run set distances and see your times come down over time as you get faster, stronger, and fitter.

At the end of the day though, running can become very repetitive, and that is why many people can't stick with it. As with any form of exercise though, I believe that the key to staying interested is variety. I have included a list below of different ways you can train for running, as well as some tips to improve and keep things varied and interesting.

Use an Efficient Stride - Elite runners have much more efficient strides. An efficient stride is great for many reasons including reducing risk of injury, as well as reserving energy for longer distances. First of all, shorten your stride. A long stride, especially with your leading leg landing too far out in front of you creates more of a braking effect of your forward momentum. Also, keep the mindset that you have a plate roughly 2 inches above your head that you do not want to touch. In other words, you want your momentum to be moving you forward, not bouncing up and down. With those in mind, also think of quick feet. You want your foot landing on the ground, and pulling back as quick as possible to propel you forward. Your feet should be touching the ground for as short amount of time as possible!

Speed Training - Marathon runners need speed training as well, not just sprinters! Long-distance runners benefit from strengthening their legs with fast bursts of speed. Not only that, but you burn more calories from sprinting as it requires more energy to accelerate and propel your body at a faster pace. Try adding some interval sprints into your longer runs. When I train, I would try and do interval sprints every so often. Try this; jog for 5 minutes at the beginning of your run as a bit of a warmup, then start your intervals. You will sprint (about 80-90% of your fastest speed) for 30 seconds, then jog for a minute. Alternate between these two time intervals until you are done your course. Intervals should not be run for too long of distances though, so I don't recommend anything over 5 kilometres total.

Run Downhill - Make sure that at least some of your training is running downhill. Your legs are under more force when running down hill which allows them to better prepare for the load and stress placed on them for long-distance runs. Plus, when you go to run a road race, you will most certainly hit points where you must run downhill so you will be better prepared to handle your speed. Just don't overdo it by running down hill too fast or too often. Downhill running is also a great way to practice increasing your stride speed.

Build Explosive Power - Try some cross training such as plyometrics (jump training) to train your muscles on how to be explosive. This is not only a great way to strengthen your legs, but it helps train them to give you much more coordinated and efficient strides when running long distances. The more elastic and forceful in nature your muscles are, the less energy they require for every stride, increasing your efficiency!

Mix Things Up - Try running on different road courses around your area so you are not always running the same pattern of uphills and downhills. Challenge yourself and choose courses that have more hills to improve strength and also mix up your effort output. For example, one day you may do a flat course and run at 50% pace for an hour, the next run you may want to run a hilly course at 70% pace for half an hour.

Variety is the spice of fitness!


Quote of the day:
"Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive."
– Howard Thurman
Check out my new Website: tylerrobbinsfitness.com



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Day 65 - Tyler's Book Club: Born to Run


Just over a week ago I finished reading Born to Run, written by Christopher McDougall. Here is the book synopsis:

An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the Copper Canyons that pits America’s best ultra-runners against the tribe. McDougall’s incredible story will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.

Whether you consider yourself a 'runner' or not, I feel anyone who is interested in physical fitness can take something from this book. As the synopsis explains, Christopher McDougall (author) re-lives the story of his own personal journey as a recreational athlete.

Along the way, he tells stories about ultramarathon runners and their truly remarkable abilities to withstand some of the craziest endurance races completed by mankind.

The heart of the story revolves around the Tarahumara, a primitive tribe in Mexico who seemingly hold all of the secrets to how humans have evolved into a species able to withstand such bouts of endurance. The only problem is, our society and 'advancements' have muddied the waters and have actually made us more prone to injury rather than preventing them.

Whether you believe the discussions within this book or not, the science and evidence presented are pretty remarkable and startling to think about. Humans have evolved through trial and error and natural selection for millions of years to nearly perfect our physiological structure. Even though we have had mother nature on our side, a couple decade's worth of research believes that they have the 'fix' for our shortcomings.

As I said, whether you consider yourself a 'runner' or not, this book is a tremendous reminder for us all that we should stop trying to complicate things and just get back to the basics. Our bodies are designed to move in specific ways, and move a lot, yet we seem to want to change both of those facts.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I do not consider myself a serious 'runner' either, but couldn't help but feel motivated to get out and go for a run in my Vibram Five Fingers. The only thing stopping me from going running is that I could not put this book down!

Quote of the day:
"A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams."
~John Barrymore






Day 41 - Breathing Tip While Running


Believe it or not, most people, when they run, do not think about their breathing. They allow their body to go into 'auto-pilot' and follow a breathing cadence based on their level of exertion.

This is fine, and will work, but it may not be the most efficient way to maximize your aerobic metabolism. Not only that, but most people exhale when their right foot strikes the ground. This can cause a chain reaction that pulls down on your diaphragm, causing a side-stitch.

For those of you who are runners, or have done some running in the past know that a side stitch can really take a bite out of your momentum.

To maximize your breathing while running, and help avoid side stitches, try running with a 3:2 breathing ratio. This is how it's done:

1. Inhale in 3 steps. So for example, if you start your breathing pattern when your left foot hits the ground, you will start your inhale on your left foot, and continue to inhale while your right foot strikes, and then back again on your left foot.

2. Exhale in 2 steps. You have just finished your inhale in 3 steps (left, right, left), so you will now begin to exhale as your right foot strikes, and continue to exhale as your left foot strikes the ground as well.

3. Because the entire 'cycle' is completed in 5 total strides, you end up beginning your exhale alternating between either your right or left foot.

You may even find that trying to mentally focus on what foot to inhale or exhale on helps you focus on your breathing and less on your fatigue. This does not need to be perfect by any means, but something to keep your mind occupied and focused while running.

Quote of the day:
"Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever."
-Lance Armstrong





Day 17 - Drug Party


What would you say if I asked you if you wanted to get high on a bunch of drugs? "No way, man, drugs aren't for me!" or "Sure, I try everything once!"

Well, despite what your thoughts/beliefs/concerns are about recreational drug use, the human body carries its own ability to flood your body with 'feel-good' hormones and endorphins. I personally am not a fan of recreational drug use, but I do in fact love the euphoric feeling that I can create on my own, naturally, within my body.

There is a great article that I read that discusses the phenomenon known as "runner's high". Now this phrase may be new to some, but I am sure that most of you have heard it before.

The article discusses the idea that the human body was built to be an endurance performer. We evolved this way in order to either hunt for our food, or to not become food for a predator.

By creating a natural 'feel-good' flood of hormones within the body, our own brain is signalling to the rest of our bodies that exercise is good, and that we should continue to do it. We call it exercise now-a-days, although our early ancestors call it "living".

I saw a documentary a while ago that theorized why humans evolved the way we did. We evolved as bipeds (two feet) for a number of reasons, one of which includes the fact that our brain is at the top of our bodies, for protection, rather than out front if we were on all fours.

The problem with being bipeds is the fact that when compared to other beings of comparable size, we are not very fast creatures. As it turns out, our early ancestors were not able to generate enough through two legs in order to chase down prey for food. However, we were/are great distance runners, so we would just out-endure our prey.

If we aren't very fast, then wouldn't our prey simply run away from us? Not exactly. Most animals lack the ability to sweat. Not only that, but when they switch from a trot to a gallop, their organs move in such a way that prevents them from panting. If they can't pant, then overheat. When they overheat, they need to take breaks.

So, because of this, our early ancestors would just simply need to keep their prey within eyesight, and run just fast enough to cause them to at least gallop. Eventually, the prey would overheat/become too tired to continue, then they would be easy pickings. If you wish to learn more about this, I was able to find the link to the documentary here.

So, as we have known for some time, exercise is good for you. What we now know, however, is that not only is exercise good for your cardiovascular system, lunges, muscles, connective tissues, and bones, but it is also good for your brain, and can cause a slew of 'feel-good' hormones in your body. Not only that, but your brain is trying to tell you something when you exercise. It is trying to reward you with these euphoric feelings because it wants you to get hooked an exercise more! Not ALL drugs are bad...

Quote of the day:
"Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there."
~W.Rogers





Running Speed

The mechanics involved in human running is substantially different than when walking. When human beings walk, the body rotates through various positions including balancing on one leg, while the weight shifts from one leg to both legs, to again on one leg. There is a cadence that rotates through these general positions.

Running, on the other hand, is more of a ballistic action with the body continually launching its weight from one leg to the other. The speed at which someone runs is directly linked to the stride frequency to stride length relationship. For example, when comparing novice to elite sprinters, studies have shown that elite sprinters achieve greater stride length and can increase it further up to about 45m from a static start of a race. Compare this to novice sprinters who peak their stride length around the 25m mark of a race from a static start.

When comparing novice to elite stride frequency, elite sprinters can achieve faster slightly higher frequencies (~5/second) and maintain that pace for a longer period of time compared to novices. When you think about the mechanics behind sprinting, it is easy to understand that a sprinter that has a high turnover stride (stride frequency) and is pushing off for more power (stride length) will elicit a greater speed.

One thing to understand, however, is that due to varying leg lengths amongst different individuals, stride length is difficult at times to train. Stride frequency, however, can be trained effectively to increase running speed.

Sprinting Performance and Stride Analysis

Below is a summarized list of the major muscular requirements during sprinting:

1. As the back (recovery) leg swings forward, eccentric knee flexion controls its forward momentum, prepares it for an efficient foot strike.

2. Muscle action then shifts from eccentric to concentric action and continues to the support phase (leg beneath center of gravity) which transfers power to the leg.

3. During the ground support phase, the high joint angle at the planted foot allows for stored elastic energy. Eccentric knee extensor activity also allows the quads to store and recover elastic energy.

4. There is a triple extension from the ankle, knee, and hip all at once allowing for propulsion and drive forward.

Training Goals

To maximize sprinting speed, I have listed a few training goals below that can help in running efficiency:

Minimize Braking - By aiming to plant the supporting foot directly beneath the center of gravity and maximizing the backward velocity of that leg during the propulsion phase will minimize the braking effect of forward momentum.

Fast Foot Strike - By increasing stride frequency and backward propulsion, you minimize the amount of time the foot has contact with the ground, therefore minimizing the braking effect of forward momentum.

Strengthen the Hamstrings - Eccentric knee flexor strength is the most important aspect limiting recovery of the leg as it swings forward.

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS