The New Yorker article on Salazar changing “Ritz’s” running from

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Tue Nov 2nd, 2010, 4 comments

I always like it when some of the technique principles of Chi Running show up in the national news. Here’s a recent article appearing in the New Yorker about Alberto Salazar’s attempt at making a good runner (Dathan Ritzenheim – aka “Ritz”) an even better one.

Here are a few of the “radical” changes Salazar made in Ritz’s form: 1. getting rid of his heel strike and moving him into a midfoot strike (where have we heard this before?) 2. telling him to keep his arms more bent and not let them hang so low at his sides (sounds familiar), telling him to lean forward instead of running upright (now this is just too uncanny…). The list goes on as you see in the article.

It’s nice to see an American coach finally thinking about running form and trying to work with it. It’s too bad Salazar wasn’t following the principle of Gradual Progress, Ritz’s stress fractures could have been avoided. I hate to see runners being experimented on, but in some cases I guess it’s necessary.

I’ve said for many years that our American runners will never beat the Kenyans and Ethiopians until they start running like they do. It can’t be done on shear muscle strength. It has to be done largely through efficiency of motion (ie. less muscle mass, less fuel consumption, less inertia and less deceleration at foot strike).

Read the New Yorker article and then watch this video that Jennifer Kahn made.

From the video I can see where Ritz is doing reasonably well, but still has a way to go before he starts running like the Kenyans and Ethiopians.

Observations on his current form
His arm swing is not as efficient as it could be. He’s still carrying his hands too low and pumping his arms instead of swinging them held in a bent position. He’s dorsiflexing some and still leading with his legs a bit, but I’m sure it’s way better than it was. It’s not easy to change and my own left leg has a mind of its own and wants to do the same thing, if I don’t pay attention to it.

He’s leading with his legs because he’s leaning at the waist instead of leaning from his ankles. He’s also not taking advantage of the use of his obliques for speed, as Lawrence Walker mentioned in the New Yorker article, because he has very little pelvic rotation.

The article I linked to here is about gaining smoothness and efficiency in your stride by allowing your spine to twist and your pelvis to rotate with each stride. This allows your legs to truly be able to relax and allow your forward fall to pull you along. Once you have your leg mechanics to the point where you’re not using your leg muscles for propulsion, you can then (if you’re interested in competitive level speed) add in some drive to the pelvis from the obliques and get more speed out of your legs without increasing the usage of your leg muscles. I don’t talk much about this in my Level I Chi Running classes because it is important to not skip steps in the development of your running technique. It’s important to get your legs relaxed, and moving efficiently and correctly first, or you could end up increasing your leg usage as you run faster… and that’s definitely not what we’re after.

Ritz might beat Meb or Haile someday, but I doubt it’s going to happen this time around (Watch them all in the NYC Marathon this weekend).

Thanks to Jennifer Kahn for a great article and a great video.
Good stuff!!!

 

Tags

  • marathon,
  • racing,
  • alberto salazar,
  • jennifer kahn,
  • nike training center,
  • ny times,
  • speed running,
  • the perfect stride

4 CommentsLeave a comment below

Danny,

I am so happy you weighed in on the article.  A quick correction, the article was in the New Yorker, not the NY Times.  I love that gradual progress is a part of chi running.  Gradual progress, like so many other parts of chi running is as effective in other parts of life as it is running.  It’s also great that thanks to you and your disciples I can get top quality gait instruction so that I can run injury free even though I will never be as fast as Ritz.  Thanks.

Hey, Jared,
Thanks for your correction! Sorry about that. And, thanks for your good words.
Happy trails,
Danny

Danny,
Thanks for sharing Kahn’s article and video analysis.  I have been studying ChiRunning for 4 months now, am 51 years old and have transformed my running form, strength and speed as a result of your methodology.  I’m also proud to be an Instructor Candidate.  A couple of comments:
* I too, believed that if you “were gifted with perfect form, great and if you weren’t you were just kind of stuck.”  How sad that Gabe Jennings thinks that Ritz “may be too old to adopt a new running style”! 
* It amazes me that a universal understanding of good running form is still in its infancy, and that the basic form focuses of ChiRunning are still being “discovered”.  Not to slam Salazar’s coaching expertise, (but I guess I am) but didn’t he do some research on Chi, Pose and Evolution running when he endeavored to change Ritz’ form?  If he was going to “experiment” on an elite athlete, why not do it with some evidenced based practice already in existence!  As you stated, surely he could have avoided injury if gradual progress was incorporated.
* As I continue to practice the form focuses, and maintain injury free running I have found, as you allude to, that pelvic rotation is indeed an advanced Chi focus and is one of the keys to power and speed.  Pelvic rotation and the lower leg focuses are something I focus on with every run.  As you note, it is sure hard to see it watching Ritz, though.  I can see the pelvic rotation in Bikela which is why his stride length is much better than Ritz’.
* Your analysis of Ritz’ running form is very educational and validates the focuses.  It would be great to see more videos with your analysis posted on your site.
thanks again!
Cheryl

Hi Cheryl,
I’m thrilled to hear you’re a candidate and I look forward to meeting you. I really appreciate all your comments and the fact that you see that running form education is (unbelievably) still in it’s infancy.
Best,
Danny

Ever heard of myo-fascial release?I do it whole body with a roller really good for range of motion. A more advanced route would be ART active release techniques.many pro athletes are getting into it.

Hi Eddy,
Yes, miofascial release is a great way to improve range of motion and ease of movement. I would also agree that ART is a fabulous technique for releasing adhesions that can also cause loss in range of motion… which, BTW, can contribute to muscle pulls.

Danny

Hi Danny!
thanks for the continous feed of details to check on running form. And it was awesome to meet you at Austin. I enjoyed it all very much. It was an excellent trip and came back home with even more enthusiasm.
About the article. I’ve noticed a subject that came up a couple of times: the difference between the stride of both legs. Let me share a thought about that with an example. I play some soccer football and hit the ball best with my right foot, this most likely happens among other things because I get best balance on my left leg (on a one legged posture stance). This is the reason I believe it’s almost natural to have differences in the stride of both sides, one leg is more “used to” (or feels easier) being in the floor. I feel we don’t have an equal center of balance on both feet so that makes that stride longer on one side. I think to correct this (if desirable) could be practicing a lot of one-legged posture stance (1LPS) on the opposite leg were used to (for me that would be the right) or maybe just getting skillfull with the other foot (for me the left). Sorry if I got intangled, if you think of it as your hands, just simply if you’re right handed it would be to train the other hand with skill (to gain balance on the other side). Hope it works for somebody, I wanted to share the idea.
Best wishes from Argentina, Benji.

Hey, Benji, that’s a great suggestion. I’ve noticed just this morning that when I do the exercise of standing on one leg with my eyes closed (shooting for 30 seconds) it is MUCH easier to stand on my left leg, because as you say, it should be more stable if I’m “right legged.” I can do the 30 seconds with no problem. But, if when I try to stand on my right leg it’s a whole different story. So far the best I’ve done is about 20 seconds. It’s not a matter of strengthening my right leg, but building the engagement of my left brain.

All the best, Danny

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