Training do’s and don’ts #1: running technical model

Training do: base your training on a sound technical model and then adapt it to your athletes.

The PAL Paradigm is my interpretation of the technical model necessary to run with good mechanics regardless of the distance. That technical model is based on what must be done to sprint at top speed, it can then be adapted according to the distance. Running skill is a motor task! Like any motor task it is teachable and trainable. The system that I have evolved over the years to improve running mechanics is the PAL System™.  PAL is an acronym for Posture, Arm Action, and Leg Action.

The objectives of the system are fourfold:

  1. To provide a context to running mechanics.
  2. A systematic step-by-step teaching progression.
  3. A context to direct training based on the needs established in the previous steps.
  4. A criterion based progressive approach toward getting someone back to normal gait pattern after an injury.

Posture is the position and alignment of the body – especially the head and trunk. Posture is dynamic, it changes with each step from the starting position on up to and through top speed. Posture should reflect the alignment of the body from the point of foot contact to the top of the head. The reference points for this alignment are the head, trunk, hip, knees, ankles, and feet.

Arm action is the position and amplitude of movement of the arms and hands. The arms help to produce force and aid in balance so that force is properly applied against the ground. During acceleration, the emphasis is on driving the arms down and back to apply force against the ground.

The optimum leg action is for the foot to contact the ground as close under the Center of Gravity as possible with a piston action from the hip. This is the most efficient stride. The amplitude of the leg action will vary with the speed of the run. Good running mechanics requires an optimum interplay between stride length and stride rate (frequency). During flight phase the knees are farther apart than the feet. In stance the swing leg knee is even or slightly of stance leg. Each person has an optimum stride length in relation to their leg length and the distance they are running