The perception of your legs moving at top-speed

It is often said that at top-speed you only feel like the legs are going up and down.
Whenever I run however I can clearly feel the stepping-over after the initial acceleration. Is this so because of my comparatively low frequency?
I wonder how for instance Gatlin or Obikwelu percives their legs moving at top-speed.

Thor personally i wouldn’t use gatlin as an example.he has run fast but from a mechanical point of view i don’t rate him at all.he has had probs with his hs and all i can say is to look at his stride and ask yourself why has he so much probs with em.

alot of top sprinters do mention the up and down feeling but also you get a free wheeling sence,with relaxation you may feel you are not running really fast but that is perception.don’t worry about the legs,the arms should keep them in synck

I’m relaxed now.
In fact one of Norway’s top sprinters commented on my running the other day saying something like “you run really good.”
It’s a pity I was only doing tempo though…

This is quite ironic for me, as i have been experiencing this feeling myself over the last 4- 5 months. This is definitely a result of a greater knowledge/awareness of the effects of both tension and relaxation on the performance of a muscle.

A coach can say to an athlete that ‘you need to be relaxed to run fast’, the athlete will just nod and assume that he gets the gist of it. When a race comes, the athlete will no doubt try so hard to win that he tenses up at about 70 metres (in a 100 metre race). I think that if a basic amount of exercise science was explained to the athlete, they would truly appreciate why a completely relaxed body is capable of fast muscular contractions. Even if an athlete does understand, the will to win in a race causes the body to produce a lot of tension in ‘over- striving’ for the line, especially if they are behind or being overtaken. Psychologically, this is hard to overcome because the harder one trys to run fast, the faster you feel you are going because of the perceived intensity of effort, even though in actual fact you are not reaching maximum speed because you are tense from trying too hard.

About 5 months ago when i grasped this fully, i made the decision that for the time being i was not going try to actually win races in training or make a big effort to reach the finishing line (i know this sounds crazy!). In effect this completely removed all the pressure, tension and nerves from my body. My only aim was to be in the lead at the 50 metre mark and i wasn’t to be concerned about the latter part of the race (where relaxation comes into play the most), which usually isn’t hard because the first 50 metres is the best part of my race. From this point on i made up my mind that i was going to totally relax and just concentrate on ‘flicking’ my hands up to my chin area as fast as i could, i was not to be concerned with my training partners or the finishing line.

To say the result was a shock was an understatement. I concluded that in the past the more determined to win i was, the better the start i would get but the worse the latter part of the race would be because i would have generated so much tension by that point. Now i had seemed to figure out the best of both worlds by mentally achieving an almost perfect relaxed state in the second 50 metres. The turnover of the hands and legs is incredible when one is completely relaxed, even though the body does not feel like it is doing anything at all. The feeling of speed is there though because the finsh line seems to approach so much quicker. Indeed my legs do now feel that they are just going up and down with very little effort, compared to before when i could feel every leg turn as a ‘step- over’ effect. This difference in feeling is a result of relaxation in my own experience and opinion.

I used to have a terrible latter part of my 100 metres, which i now understand to be the result of an extremely aggressive running style. My thinking went that my event only lasts for under 11 seconds, i can do without being relaxed for this amount of time, because the guy with the most aggressive desire to win will be victorious.Wrong. My pb went from the high 10.9s down to the low 10.6s, almost purely as a result of a gain in knowledge/understanding and a subsequent change of mental attitude. My body’s capabilities remained more or less the same. I think the mind is one of the most underdeveloped and underestimated tools in sprint training and improvement.

Great post! I have to admit I couldn’t quite get the whole relaxation thing until now. Admittedly I’m a rookie [even at the advanced age of 38]-but my 0-30 and 60m times are faster when I haul ass-relaxing has yielded worse times for me. I thought it was maybe because I am a 12 second guy with no experience, I figured 10 second guys have a speed and power base which makes the relaxation concept more applicable. But I bind up horribly at 70 m and perhaps it is the upright portion of the race that lends itself most to relaxation. Your description is great-I’m going to give it another try.

When I first juggled 4 balls in one hand, I thought I had to:

“Heave Heave Heave Heave” . . .grunt, strain, flail.

One day I hit a new PR with it and there was little to no perceived “effort”, it just felt like my arm was bobbing up and down on a spring. Since then I’ve tried to replicate that feeling, with good results.

In my opinion a sprint should follow a relax-intense-relax format. The first part (relax) is needed to have a good reaction time out of the blocks before the race even starts, if your muscles are tense you will not react to the gun very quickly.

The second part needs to be intense because if you are relaxed at this stage you will not have the necessary agression to hit your top speed at around the mid way point. The first part of the race is where all the strength work with the weights comes into play, so if you don’t really drive with all your might/strength at this stage you are wasting the strength component of power.

The third part calls for you to be relaxed once again, because you will tie up very quickly if you continue to try to get faster when you have already hit your top speed. You will maintain much more of your speed if you cease being agressive and trying to get faster, and just relax and pump/flick the arms as rapidly as possible. If you are relaxed at this point your arms will feel as light as feathers at this stage, whereas if they are tensed they will feel heavy and slow.

It obviously takes time and practise to be able to switch from these states all within a sub 11 second race (or sub 10 depending on who you are).

Very helpful. Just to clarify the first and second part of your relaxed/aggressive/relaxed point: the only part of the start that seems to be really relaxed is awaiting the gun-and then you have to use your power and get agressive during acceleration, right?

That seems to be what he’s saying. wrt mr ryder’s first post, i couldn’t agree more! Though applying it in practice is far more difficult than how he makes it sound. Though keep trying and i’m sure you’ll get to where you wanna be! :slight_smile:

Yes that is exactly what i’m saying. At the start you have to be relaxed yet highly alert, which also as Rob Watson was saying about my other posts, is a lot harder in practise than in writing. Still, we need to simplify things as much as possible for each other, without distorting the intended message, so that the point is communicated effectively. :slight_smile:

Clear. Thanks again guys. The funny thing is, this sport gives you such a high-I know I get just as much thrill trying to do a personal best as a 10 second guy. There is nothing like opening up your throttle on a nice track!

I couldn’t agree more! :cool:

i understand what you mean by staying relaxed because after football practice i usually racing somebody on the team
last week me and my friend raced each other while the coach was watching. he starts at tail back and since this is my first year of football i’m only on special teams. the coach told us to go and i got a good start while coming out of my drive phase i realized that i was ahead of my friend. i was runnung hard but relax but he was trying so hard to catch. i could tell he muscles were tensed because when i looked back at him he had like a bobbing motion like when rocky runs

I think that my running style is good, i do’t need to do no work on it. Because it is Natural and i don’t have to think about it. I think that i am a very relaxed runner like (Obeirdaily Tompson) spelt wrong. Well yeh you know that feeling you where talking about, sometimes i feel that.

I always feel it when i rn 200m, as i come off the bend into the strainght. Also when i blasted one of my 300meters in training, it was the last one. I flet it down the finshing strainght, when i push myself to the limit it comes!

I think you can tell when Athletes are in this Zone, like Maurice Greene, and Dwain Chambers in the European Champs. Its all good!

Thank yOu

I run professional races over here in Oz, and I can vouch for the fact that in one of the races I won last year, it was the easiest race (feeling wise) that I have ever run. It felt like I was running a tempo 120, and I had to actually stop mid-celebration and think to my self whether I had actually raced or not (true story)
An amazing feeling when it clicks…