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

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I always like it when some of the technique principles of ChiRunning 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 ChiRunning 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!!!


Posted in Technique

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