Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast · 30 May 2013

When I started running in my minimalist shoes, I wondered what the advice, “Run easy, light, smooth, and fast,” meant. That was the advice given by the runner, Caballo Blanco, to the author of Born to Run.

I had no idea what it meant to run easy, light, smooth, and fast. Mainly, I could not figure out how to run light and smooth. After all, anybody can plod along, but I did not know how I could become light and smooth. Until recently.

I am not completely there yet, but I finally know the physiological meaning of running easy, light, and smooth. When we run light and smooth, it means that we are letting our bodies work for us so running becomes easy. We are not working against our own muscles. We are using something called the stretch reflex.

Stretch reflex is something I have been learning about as a track and field throwing coach. It is using our muscles as rubber bands in order to fling shots, discs, and javelins farther than they would go if we just muscled those implements onto the field. But I finally figured out that stretch reflex also helps us to run easier, lighter, smoother, and hopefully, faster.

In running, one of the important things is to get the heels up high for the forward leg thrust. That makes cycling the legs easier and quicker than just plodding along. It actually helps get us faster cycle times because the leg acts like a pendulum. The shorter the pendulum, the shorter time it takes to go through a cycle. (I learned that from fellow coach, Dean.) That is where stretch reflex comes in.

If we just plod along, trying to lift our heels to our rears takes more work than it is worth. When we strike our heels first, we do not get any stretch reflex because our feet are not flexing. When we hit the balls of our feet like we do barefoot running, our heels naturally go higher because of the stretch reflex. Our foot muscles actually make our feet rebound higher and it is easier, lighter, and smoother to run!

This revelation was exciting because I made it while I was running. I realized that I could run easy, light, and smooth. Especially, if I ran faster. The faster I ran, the more my heels naturally cycled higher due to the stretch reflex.

I may not be running very quickly but at least I now understand the advice of running light, smooth, and fast. And as a result, I am running easier.

© 2013 Michael T. Miyoshi

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