Watching Yourself on Video

Please read the disclaimer.

First Things First – The General Impressions

  •  Do you look stressed, smooth, relaxed, flexible, controlled, tense ?
  • In these things, how do you compare to others in the race of about your speed ?

 Specific things to look for from the front

  • Toes up on footstrike ?
  • Foot placement along a line – not like a duck, and not crossing over
  • Shape of muscles around the knees – are the quads visibly engaging? This is something that judges look for
  • Hip movement – is each hip moving up and down (correct) or from side to side (incorrect) ?
  • Trunk moving in a controlled manner – not too stiff, not too floppy
  • Heel of hands brushes past the point of the hip ?
  • Hands held firm but relaxed ?
  • Elbows going out too far to the side ( “chicken-winging” ) ?
  • Hands crossing the centreline of the body (incorrect) ?
  • Shoulders relaxed – not stiff, not drooping, not over-active, even ?
  • Head looking steadily at or past the camera ?
  • Head going up and down (incorrect), or steady (OK), or small controlled movement side-to-side (OK)
  • Any obvious “energy leaks” – superfluous motions that don’t contribute to your progress ?

 Specific things to look for from the side

  •  Toes up on footstrike ?
  • Contact maintained by trailing foot until the last moment ?
  • Does the foot roll through its movement (correct) or flop flat after impact (incorrect) ?
  • Contact maintained (or flight time only visible with the pause button)?
  • Knees straightened between footstrike and vertical position?
  • Overstriding (footstrike a long way ahead of the centre of balance)?
  • Is the leg extending properly at the hip (how much further is the knee behind the centre of balance than the hip, just before the foot leaves the ground) ?
  • Is the circling movement of the hip visible – back, then down, then forward, then up ?
  • Check the trunk angle – leaning forward five degrees or less ?
  • Check the angle of the arms at the elbows – pretty much a constant ninety degrees ?
  • Heel of hands brushes past the point of the hip ?
  • Elbow goes high at the back to encourage a strong leg drive ?
  • Shoulders hunched forward (incorrect) or relaxed and in line on either side of the spine ?
  • Shoulders either steady or showing a slight forward-and-back movement to balance the movement of the hips ?
  • Head balanced on top of spine, not projected forward and not bobbing about ?
  • Gaze straight ahead ?

Specific things to look for from behind

  • How much of the underside of the shoe do you see before the foot leaves the ground ?
  • Foot placement along a line – not like a duck and not crossing over
  • Action of tendons behind the knee – should be no visible change between footstrike and when leg is vertical
  • Hip action – high when leg is vertical and straight, low when leg is swinging, and not moving from side to side
  • Trunk moving in a controlled manner, not too stiff and not too floppy
  • Heel of hands brushes past the point of the hip ?
  • Elbows going out too far to the side ( “chicken-winging” ) ?
  • If the hand is visible above the shoulder at the end of its forward movement, it is the correct shoulder ?

 Other things you can do from video

  • Compare yourself to either the people at the front of the race, or (if that’s too intimidating) the people who are a little bit faster than you. What do they do that you don’t ?  There are individual things in every style, of course, but comparing in respect to the above points may reveal something you can improve upon.
  • Calculate your cadence (pacing speed). If there is a period of thirty seconds when you are in sight, e.g. an angled shot of a straight, you can count the number of paces you do in thirty seconds. Less than fifty footstrikes with one foot in the 30 seconds and there is room for improvement, by improving your leg speed or your stamina.
  • Calculate your pace length as a proportion of your height. Two ways of doing this :
    1. from your cadence as calculated above – this will give you a correct figure within 2-3 %. You also need to know the distance of your race, and your time in it, and your height, and we will assume that your speed during the cadence count was the same as your average speed during the race.
      • how many paces did you take in the race ? Divide the number of seconds you took to complete the race by 30, and multiply by your number of paces in 30 seconds. So, if you did the race in 32 minutes, and you did 47 paces in 30 seconds, you did (more or less) 32 x 2 x 47 paces =  3008 paces.
      • how long was each pace ? Divide the number of paces into the race distance. So, if it was a 5000m race in the previous example, each (double) pace was 5000 / 3008 = 1.66 metres.
      • what’s this as a proportion of your height ? If in the previous example, the athlete was 1.73m high (5’8”), the ratio is 0.96.
    1. from one or more still images of yourself a couple of strides apart. The video should be taken from exactly side on. The accuracy of this method will depend partly on whether the camera, the video software, and your computer screen either stretch or compress images – in case they do, it may be worth doing this calculation for one of the leaders of the race as well as for yourself, and comparing.
      • If you take two strides (i.e. one with each leg) within the frame of the picture, freeze the playback when one foot is on the ground. Stick a post-it note on your computer screen, and make a mark on it where the back of the heel is. Roll the video until that foot is on the ground the next time. Stick on another post-it note and again mark the back of the heel. Put a ruler against the computer screen and measure the distance between the two marks, in centimetres. Then, from a still image of yourself in a position when your leg is upright, measure your height on the screen (also in centimetres). Divide the length of the double-stride by the height of the athlete. So, if the distance between the two marks on the post-it notes is 13 centimetres, and your height is measured on the screen at 12 centimetres, the ratio is 13/12 = 1.08.
      • If there aren’t two strides within the frame of the picture, the calculation can be made from one. However this may be less accurate, and sometimes one leg is stronger or one hip more flexible than the other so that a stride is a different length for each leg. Freeze the video when you are in full stride and have one heel and one toe on the ground. Measure the length of the stride, the length of your foot, and your height, in centimetres using a ruler on your computer screen. Then add the length of your stride to the length of your foot, double it, and divide by your height. So if the distance from toe to heel was 5.7 centimetres, your foot was 0.8 centimetres long, and your height was 12 centimetres, the ratio is (( 5.7 +0.8 ) x 2 ) / 12, = 1.08 again.
      • If you have image editing software available, for example Microsoft Paint or the freeware GNU Image Manipulation Program (“GIMP”), you may be able to load up an image and use the software to tell you the pixel positions of various points in the image – point of heel contact with ground, point of toe, position of top of head, etc, and from these you can calculate the number of pixels between different points on the image. You may need your Pythagoras to measure your foot length ! Or roll on a few frames till your foot is flat on the ground. This will give you the distances involved as a number of pixel points, rather than number of centimetres, and this will be more accurate than trying to measure on your screen with a ruler.

You don’t need to be too accurate with this calculation, because for top international athletes this ratio is about 1.35 – quite a lot bigger than most of us at our level can achieve, and it shows what you can aim at. The ratio is increased by improving hip flexibility and improving strength in the glutes, hamstrings, calves, shins and muscles of the foot and lower back.

Did you read the disclaimer ?


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