Monday, May 01, 2017

A Shocking Way to Quickly Improve Your Running

It turns out there is a shocking way to quickly improve your running form.

No, you don't need to go to a sports psychologist to figure out why your are "internally holding yourself back".

No, you don't need to train for 4,000 hours, on film, nor do you need a special diet or special shoes.

From New Scientist:

A new device called FootStriker uses a blast of electrical muscle stimulation to move a runner’s foot to the right angle just before landing. Early tests suggest that it might have a big impact in tweaking a runner’s style.

Trained professional runners generally land on the front of their feet when running, but recreational runners normally land heel-first – something that many coaches discourage because it may have links with injury (although this is disputed).

To check which part of the foot lands first, FootStriker uses a pressure sensor placed in a shoe’s insole. Whenever a bad step is recorded during a run, a pad on the back of the calf jumps into action. With a little burst of electricity, the muscles are stimulated to correct the position of the foot for the next landing.

In a test, six runners used the device. During an initial 1-kilometre run without any electrical assistance, the average percentage of heel landings across the group was 95 per cent. Over the next 3 km, FootStriker was switched on and the proportion of heel landings plummeted to 16 per cent.

For a final kilometre, the device was switched off, but heel landings continued to decrease – to 8 per cent – suggesting that the runners had learned the new technique. And although the device was only worn on one leg, the improvement happened in both.

In comparison, a control group received coaching on how to improve their running style, but only managed to reduce their average number of heel strikes from 97 per cent to 80 per cent.

Clearly, the electric shock here is pretty mild, but it's enough to train the mind to train the body, and it's much quicker and better than a regular coach at the same job.

Think there might be a lesson here about learning in general?  Perhaps a lesson about Artificial Intelligence-encouraged learning in particular, and dog training in particular?

I have said I think robotic AI-assisted dog training is only a decade or so away, but it may come even sooner for humans in fields like running, tennis, golf, and rowing, where sensors can quickly train athletes in how to dramatically improve their form for better results.


jeffrey thurston said...

Don't go down that road Patrick- running is as controversial and full of hare-brained theories as dog training, canine genetics and Peace in the Middle East! I know- I run- a lot! In 10 years of running very hard, thousands of miles- half of which were uphill 1,000 feet every run I have discovered that few people are confident in the way God made them and thus are prey to hucksters and fake science. Pose, Chi and forefoot running are newer versions of the scam- this electronic gizmo looks to be the latest. In reality 99% of people should be concerned with "just doing it" and not running technique. In my experience injuries come with too much weight. Sensible shoes and low weight and dogged determination are all one needs...

jeffrey thurston said...

I reread the article carefully- funny- although it even says in the article that the evil of heelstriking is controversial AT BEST: "...oaches discourage because it may have links with injury (although this is disputed)." the assumption is that forefoot striking while running is better. In real life all this comes from white people trying to explain why East Africans and specifically Ethiopians are better runners! It's NOT the childhood spent up at 6,000 to 8,000 feet. It's NOT the running 10 miles every day to and from school. It's NOT the obvious physical difference which gives these people barrel chests and very long thin legs! No! It's because slowed up films seem top show them forefoot striking while running. Ha! In real life (again) slowed up film shows that EVERYONE heelstrike when tired- heelstriking was also the correct way to run in the 70s. Bill Rogers and his whole running generation were heelstrikers and they did GREAT! It's all wishful thinking and show salesmanship and bookselling and podiatry encouraging. Not real...

jeffrey thurston said...

I meant: "...shoe salesmanship..."