In the second of a 3-part series Matt Long, Darren Reevell and Mark Brace explore the ‘so what’s’ of biokinetics
Spring 2022. Team England warm weather training camp
After splashing about in the sea following a hard day’s work at the track, our two Birmingham Commonwealth Games bound athletes have made it back to their car and are enjoying the ride as they are chauffeured back to the hotel by one of their team coaches.
The female marathoner is teasing her sprints-based boyfriend who half an hour earlier you may recall fell flat onto his face in sprinting across tarmac onto the soft sand. In concentrating on his driving, the team coach has discarded the article he has been reading on ‘biokinetics’ and the female marathoner has begun to flick through it. Her boyfriend has by now fallen asleep in the back seat and after becoming bored as the minutes tick by, the female marathoner runner recalls the promise of the team coach to help her understand what he termed ‘optimal stiffness’.
With a laugh the wise old team coach tells his budding marathoner – “Of course you should still do your static stretching after every session. When I say ‘stiffness’, I’m talking about something different – optimal and adaptable stiffness of the kinetic chain”. (See Thompson, P.J.L., 2021).
With a quizzical look she asks, “So why is that important?”. He responds, “It needs to be optimal because too much stiffness and you will end up with bone injuries and too little stiffness can lead to soft tissue injuries”. Suddenly wide awake, her sprints-based boyfriend calls from the back seat, “We don’t want to get injured and miss Birmingham 2022 do we?”. With a chuckle, the coach responds, “Hold fire its not just about injury prevention – biokinetics can help your performance when you both get to the start line at the Alexander stadium”.
The knowledgeable coach says, “When the both of you run, whilst sprinting biomechanics and endurance running are slightly different in terms of the technical templates we coaches use, they do share considerable commonalities. Both of you, for example, need to keep your centre of mass stable whilst running at speed”.
“So how else can an understanding of biokinetics help me?”, says the intrigued female marathoner. “Its not just about a stable centre of mass”, replies the coach, “it will help you minimise ground contact time. The longer your foot is on the ground the more you are slowing down a bit like me hitting the breaks on this car”. After a pause, the female marathoner responds with a further question – “So if I get into this biokinetics stuff will I feel any fresher during the marathon around the streets of Birmingham?”
The coach responds, “It’s quite possible you will because you can expect to see an improvement in your running economy. It helps facilitate what we call ‘metabolic energy sparing’”. “What does that mean?”, responds the marathoner. Before he has the chance to reply, her sprinter boyfriend interrupts saying, “It basically means you get improved running performance from the same metabolic energy – at any speed of running.”
With a touch of sarcasm she responds, “And how come you seem to know more about this than I do clever-clogs?”. As her boyfriend shrugs, the coach responds that, “It’s probably because he is a sprints-based event group athlete whereas you are endurance based”.
What the endurance community can learn from sprints, jump and throws based athletes
The coach continues to explain that, “the problem is with the endurance community is we tend to focus too much on the volume of our work. In terms of the five key components of fitness we are more inclined to put our proverbial eggs in the baskets of endurance and speed but less inclined to take care of strength, co-ordination and flexibility”. After reflecting, the female marathoner nods in agreement saying, “Yes we all tend to talk about what’s on our Garmin and how our last long run went I guess”.
She then asks, “So how are you trying to change this as a coach”. With a sigh he responds – “all of us in the endurance community can begin to change the sorts of conversations we have in changing rooms after we’ve run or over meals in this training camp. Rather than you endurance athletes asking each other about your session splits you should try engendering conversations about how your latest S&C session went; how well you did on your last stretching to extend the range of motion session or even how you’d score yourselves out of 10 in terms of effecting the drills during a recent warm up”.
The female marathoner nods once more in affirmation as the coach pulls up at the team hotel car park and they prepare to head back inside. The marathoner asks the team coach, “you’ve told me what biokinetics is and now I get why it’s important but when are you going to tell me how to improve my biokentic capabilities?”. With a friendly grin he says. “Lets go grab some food and then when the physios are giving you both your massages, we’ll talk more in the treatment room”…..
Thompson, P.J.L. (2021) ‘Biokinetic energy – identifying the fourth energy system for all track & field events’. Techniques for Track & Field and Cross Country, USTFCCCA, 14 (4): 8-13.
This is the Technical Journal of the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) available free of charge at this link:
Darren Reevell (email@example.com) and Mark Brace (firstname.lastname@example.org) are Regional Coach Leads for Endurance who have served as England Team Managers. Matt Long is a Midlands Team Manager for Road, Cross Country and Masters and Mentee Team Manager on the England Athletics Staff Training Programme and welcomes contact for support at email@example.com