February 2018 - Vertical Oscillation

The Question

February's question was from Gillian in Glasgow, who wanted to know if she should reduce her vertical oscillation:

Everybody says I have a very bouncy running style. I understand the correct term is "vertical oscillation" and my Garmin agrees it is too high. Is it that much of a problem? How do I go about reducing it?

- Gillian, Glasgow

Phil - running coach
Phil - Marathon coach and parkrun fan

“Yes, vertical oscillation is basically how bouncy you are.

The problem with too much vertical oscillation is that it wastes energy. If you are expending energy to propel yourself upwards, then less is available for you to propel yourself forwards - which is the entire goal of running. Another problem with a high vertical oscillation is that you'll hit the ground with greater impact, increasing the amount of stress your body suffers while running and increasing injury risk.

Vertical oscillation tends to be a bigger problem for taller runners, but there are a few things you can do to reduce it.

  • Look ahead. Focusing your gaze into the distance tends to result in a more level running style
  • Lead with the hips. Instead of trying to keep your head level, focus on level hips. Tty to feel as though you are leading with your hips - it can sometimes help to imagine that somebody is pushing the small of your back from behind.
  • Increase cadence/stride rate. A higher stride rate means you'll be spending less time in the air and travelling less distance upwards.
  • With each footfall, think down and back. Imagining that your legs are performing a cycling action can help with this.

Since your watch records vertical oscillation you could try a set of 100-metre, moderately-fast runs, focussing on a different technical aspect each time. Experiment and see which does the best job of lowering your vertical oscillation.”

Our Member's Answer

February's member's answer was from Dan in Marlborough. Dan finds it helps to keep things light:

Dan - Let there be light

“I've spent so much time examining these metrics. Some say it's unhealthy but I think it's quite good fun. The only thing that worked for me was running as light-footed as I could - think I lost about half a centimetre which is good enough for me. So... keep it light, I think.”

Thanks, Dan. Another great tip.

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