Running Gyroscopes: Finding Your Line

Going off road can be a refreshing and exhilarating experience, but it also challenging. In a previous post and the Endurance Magazine August 2016 Off Road issue we talked about the importance of being able to find and follow the line of the trails. In this article we explore finding the central line of your body to guide over the line of the trail.

When running, the opposing rotations of the arms and legs work as gyroscopes to create a central axis in the body. A great way to really feel this principle in action is with a fidget spinner. Hold your spinner in the horizontal plane with your finger underneath and your thumb on top (if you don’t have one, go find one from someone younger than you). Spin it and then remove your thumb. Move the spinner forward and back in space while keeping it horizontal. Feel how the rotational force creates a vertical line and holds the spinner stable. Imagine that the spinner is you running. Spin it again and move it, but tilt the spinner slightly allowing it to wobble off of the horizontal plane. You will feel how this loss of stability negatively impacts the smooth movement. Imagine if your pelvis and shoulders were doing this tilting while you run and you can get a sense of the importance of this stable central rotational axis through the body.

Our skeleton is uniquely constructed so that the force of the pushing of one leg behind you while swinging the other leg forward generates this rotational axis around the spine (core). Even better, there are dynamic diagonal connections from the hip and leg to the opposing arm and shoulder. These dynamic connections engage the shoulders and arms to rotate opposite of the legs and pelvis as we walk and run. The arms/shoulders and legs/pelvis are our fidget spinners. The two fidget spinners are stacked to counterbalance each other for an efficient, stable core. It is the vertical line of this stable core that we want to glide effortlessly over the line of the trail.

To help feel this connection in your body, try this. Lie on your stomach and gently lift one leg slightly off the floor. Lift your leg so that the pelvis on the lifting leg side presses into the floor. Notice how the opposite side shoulder is lifted away from the floor as your leg lifts and your pelvis is pressed forward into the floor. Slowly and gently repeat this motion with each leg, paying attention to the transition from side to side and the diagonal connection between one leg and the opposite shoulder.

Once you feel this clearly, stand up tall on one leg. Swing your other leg lightly forward and back allowing the arms to freely swing in the opposite direction of the leg. These are your fidget spinner gyroscopes. Your body should be in a straight tall line as the limbs swing around it.

This concept of gyroscopes and spinners also completely applies to cycling, but in a different orientation in space. For more information on that, you can reference the August 2015 Off Road issue of Endurance Magazine and the May 2017 Cycling issue Core Corner.

This month’s core corner features the Heisman Lunge exercise to help build the stable central axis created by opposing leg and arm rotations. Have fun with it and the above movement explorations. We hope to see you finding your line through the woods.

This article submitted to Endurance Magazine, August 2017 Off Road Issue