Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Opposite

"George : Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable, I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but ... I was perceptive. I always know when someone's uncomfortable at a party. It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I've ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every of life, be it something to wear, something to eat ... It's all been wrong."

In one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, George comes to the realization that he should try to do the opposite of everything he usually does, since what he usually does is wrong. By following this principle, his luck changes and everything begins to go his way including getting a girlfriend, a job with the Yankees and moving out of his parents' house.

I often think that most coaches should follow this principle: do the opposite of what they think is right, and maybe they will start doing things the right way. I was reminded of this principle when reading the last entries to this blog.

I would think that it would be well understood that running and walking are two distinct types of human locomotion, with different kinematics and kinetics. This difference comes from the different duration of the stance phase in the two gaits, Cappellini et al (2006). This obviously has implications when it comes to specificity of endurance. Simply put, endurance gained while walking has little to no impact in running performance, and vice-versa. This is the reason why traditionally race walkers only run during the off-season and do most of their training as race walking.

Perhaps more important is the different kinesthetic awareness that these two different modes of movement promote. While one mode (walking) promotes a long, heel-to-toe, stance period, the other (running) should promote a short stance period, since there is ample evidence that running economy is increased when support time decreases and peak forces increase.

Lastly, it seems obvious to me that if an athlete, any athlete of any level, has the time and energy, he/she should be running more, not walking. Not only walking increases overall fatigue, it doesn't promote run-specific endurance, while emphasizing movement patterns that are not related to running.

So that's my positive, constructive message for the holiday season: Do the opposite.


Lorenzo Coopman said...

The Finnish runners from around 1930 did incorporate walking in their training programs(Noakes, lore of running, page 370) but it never had much followers. I think it was Paavo Numri who complained that he had stiff joints after walking
I remember I've read somewhere ( ) that some Kenyan runners criticizing western runners for spending too much time on their feet doing non running specific things (exploring, hiking, site seeing) when they are training hard.

Eric Johnson said...

i think what bobby left out is that people can run more frequently *without getting hurt* by inserting some walking into their running.

this will allow more volume and fewer interruptions in training. which will lead to faster times.

Paulo Sousa said...


Hopefully you will see the inconsistency of your arguments.