Power and Your Joints

De­mys­ti­fy­ing the Myth

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - By Mary­lene Vester­gom Mary­lene Vester­gom is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Cana­dian Run­ning. She’s cov­ered sports for over 20 years, in­clud­ing mul­ti­ple Olympic Games.

Run­ning a marathon is gru­el­ing work. And when you’re dig­ging deep for that ex­tra power to main­tain speed, most peo­ple think that the mus­cles around your knees and hips (i.e., quads, ham­strings, glutes) pro­duce the most amount of power be­cause they’re big­ger, ac­cord­ing to biomech­a­nist Dr. Max Pa­que­tte from the University of Mem­phis. How­ever, that’s not the case. “What’s of­ten over­looked are the calf mus­cles or the plan­tar f lex­ors,” Pa­que­tte says “These rel­a­tively small mus­cles around your an­kles are the largest con­trib­u­tors to power dur­ing run­ning.”

If you plan to con­tinue run­ning for a long time, Pa­que­tte says that keep­ing up a good amount of weekly mileage and mak­ing sure you in­cor­po­rate faster run­ning into your train­ing may help pre­serve the abil­ity of those plan­tarf lex­ors to pro­duce power and ul­ti­mately run­ning speed as you age.

“When I start off my train­ing,” says Cana­dian run­ner Reid Cool­saet, 38, who placed ninth at this year’s Bos­ton Marathon, “it be­gins with two-foot hops, and then I progress to one-foot hops, where I’m mov­ing from side to side as well as for­ward and back. I work on this ex­er­cise at a lit­tle more than I used to if I want to per­form at the same level. I also in­cor­po­rate hills and vary­ing ter­rain.”

Pa­que­tte says skip­ping is also a great drill to im­prove an­kle power: “High an­kle power main­tains run­ning speed, and of the three lower limb joints, power from the an­kle takes the big­gest hit as we age. It’s lit­er­ally a ‘use it or lose it’ type of sce­nario.”

We’ve all seen marathon­ers who may no longer be in their prime shuff le their feet. It looks like they are run­ning from their hips, as they don’t seem to push off with their calves to pro­pel them­selves for­ward. “It’s be­cause they’ve lost much of their abil­ity to pro­duce an­kle power,” Pa­que­tte points out.

Right be­fore your foot leaves the ground when push­ing off, your an­kle is plan­tarf lex­ing, your toes are point­ing down. “That’s the last push we make to pro­pel our­selves for­ward, and if this pow­er­ful plan­tarf lex­ion is less­ened, it ef­fec­tively slows us down,” says Pa­que­tte.

Hav­ing trained with Reid Cool­saet and Eric Gil­lis while at the University of Guelph, Pa­que­tte knows all too well the im­por­tance of ply­o­met­ric drills as a power ex­er­cise. “These guys have done this their en­tire pro­fes­sional ca­reers and it has likely helped them main­tain their an­kle power. There is no doubt the drills are part of the foun­da­tion for their longevity run­ning marathons at a very high level.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.