Troubleshooting My Biomechanics of Running 101

23 04 2013

HK International Diamond Mile: Race Report & Form Analysis

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These days, I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the biomechanics of running.

Tempo runs and hard intervals give me endurance and speed; squats, pushups and plyometrics give me strength and power. But underlying it all is the biomechanics of running movement. If cardiovascular endurance is the engine, and muscular strength the horsepower, then biomechanics is the car frame. And I want structural integrity: a sturdy, high quality car frame, Ferrari standard – not some beat up pick up truck.

Last Sunday’s race, the HK International Diamond Mile, was held smack-bang in the middle of Central. With its sharp hairpin bends and gradients to navigate, it did not make for a fast course. I ran the two laps, 1609m in total, in a not-so-respectable 5:39, placing first in the Women’s Junior category. The race was later televised in full. Here, for the first time, was my chance to scrutinize my running form. (Watch from 7:00 onwards)

Running form: what’s the big deal?

I believe running form can make or break a runner.

Take Alberto Salazar, for example. He’s a former marathon runner and now coaches, amongst other athletes, Mo Farah and Galen Rupp. At the age of 21, Salazar won the first marathon he entered, the New York City marathon in 1980. He would win it again in 1981, and again in 1982.

And then things started to fall apart. At the 1983 Rotterdam marathon, he pulled a muscle in his groin. Patellar tendinitis came next, followed by a torn hamstring. It was the beginning of the end. As Jennifer Kahn wrote for the New Yorker:

Looking back, Salazar blames his form for his decline. “The way I ran, it wasn’t sustainable,” he said. “The attitude at the time was: if you were gifted with perfect form, great. If you weren’t, you were just kind of stuck.” While a runner with an awkward stride might win a few races, Salazar argues now, he’s ultimately doomed to break down: “The knee injury, the hamstring injury—in hindsight, these were the things that killed me.”

Thoughts on technique and form

Arm Swing

This is a problem I’ve been trying to fix for a while now: excessive lateral arm-swinging – a total waste of energy because I want to propel myself forwards, not left and right. Take a look at these freeze frames.

Arm1

My left arm is coming right across my body. Ugh.

One way Salazar describes the arm swing is going “nipple to nipple“, meaning that your left fist should be in front of your left nipple, and your right first in front of your left nipple. The blue line above shows where my fist would line up with my nipple. As can be seen, I’ve over-swung to the centre, as marked with the red line.

Arm2

My arms are swinging laterally in front of me, creating this triangle that would not be there if I were swinging backwards and forwards.

Toe Off: Hip Separation

For me, this is not so much of a problem as an area for improvement. My back kick looks strong enough from the video, but my knee drive needs a bit more work.

Ideally, I’d have a knee drive as strong as this runner below.

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Right now, though, my knee isn’t coming quite high enough.

ToeOff2

Blue line: where I’d like my leg to be.

The freeze frame below, from the video Changing Stride, explains hip separation at the point of “toe off” nicely.

On the left you have Dathan Ritzenhein, an American long distance runner whose running form Alberto Salazar drastically overhauled. On the right is Kenenisa Bekele, an Ethiopian runner with the 5000m and 10,000m Olympic and world records under his belt.

Ritzenhein’s angle of hip separation, on the left, in blue, is smaller than that of Bekele’s on the right. You want a greater degree of hip separation because it increases the length of your stride so that you can cover more ground with each step.

ToeOff

Here’s an absolutely b-e-a-u-tiful example of hip separation.

Mo Farah leads Cam Levins (left) and Galen Rupp (centre) in training Photograph: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Wrap Up

There’s so much to be said about the biomechanics of running form. I have very little knowledge in this area – all the information above was gleaned from YouTube, articles and Googling around – but I’m enthralled. My hope is that approaching running in a comprehensive way – clocking miles, running hard intervals, stretching, building strength and power, and paying attention to the details – I’ll become the best runner I can be.

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Freespace Fest in Pictures

16 12 2012
Freespace Fest!

Freespace Fest!

I’ve been told that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

I concur. 

But free space? There’s lots of it – and at Freespace Fest, it’s all being put to great use. 

Live music. Dancing. Performances. Art. Boutique stalls. The open sky. Friends. Food. Grass. 

Bliss. 

Hong Kong’s creative potential. Right here. 

And now, a taste of it in photos…enjoy.  *Click on the photos to enlarge. 

The sun sets on Freespace Fest - but the music, dancing, food and life continues!

The sun sets on Freespace Fest – but the music, dancing, food and life continues!

Plenty of beer to go around, too.

Plenty of beer to go around, too.

People. Grass. Open sky. Music. Happiness.

People. Grass. Open sky. Music. Happiness.

Eat your greens!

Eat your greens!

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A super acrobatic dance performance. They were hardcore - literally.

A super acrobatic dance performance. They were hardcore – literally.

Dancing on exercise equipment? You bet!

Dancing on exercise equipment? You bet!

A lovely, innovative bamboo structure.

A lovely, innovative bamboo structure by the water. 

Sit and chill under this bamboo structure by the sea side.

Sit and chill…come to think of it, this would be a big hit with pandas! 

DIY eco-friendly organic detergent made only of orange peel, sugar and water, fermented all together in an airtight bottle for 3+ months. You end up with a sweet and refreshing Dettol-like liquid, but without all the chemicals! Great for dishes, the floor...cleaning in general. You've got to keep the Earth clean while you're cleaning, too.

DIY eco-friendly organic detergent made only of orange peel, sugar and water, fermented all together in an airtight bottle for 3+ months. You end up with a sweet and refreshing Dettol-like liquid, but without all the chemicals! Great for dishes, the floor…cleaning in general. You’ve got to keep the Earth clean while you’re cleaning, too.

An gory organ vending machine...

An gory organ vending machine…

Flags: pick one, add you own design, plant it.

Flags: pick one, paint on it your own design, plant it in the ground. 

Spread your wings and fly away...

Spread your wings and fly away… (Sadly, when I visited again on the second day, the pole had toppled over and the bird had fallen down. An accident or a creative intention? A veiled reference to the bird flu epidemic? An implicit allusion to the trampling of freedom? 

Another stall featuring works by a local artist.

Another stall featuring works by a local artist.

Lots of stalls featuring products by local designers and artists.

Lots of stalls featuring products by local designers and artists. Here, handmade cloth bags 西拐角. 

The ICC in the background.

The ICC in the background.

A clay workshop, open to all.

A clay workshop, open to all.

Freespace. Lots of free space. Relish in a wave of creativity.

Freespace. Lots of free space. Relish in a wave of creativity.

An intricate web made entirely of rubber bands.

An intricate web made entirely of rubber bands.

Take the stage.

Take the stage.

 





Roaming Around PoHo and Beyond

8 12 2012

Not far from the hectic crux of the business district, a short stroll away from the booze-fueled din of Lankwai, just down the road from the gastronomic paradise of SoHo, a small little neighbourhood is sprouting up.

It goes by the funky name of PoHo, and has been called the ‘Brooklyn of Hong Kong’.

Tucked above the main streets of Sheung Wan, the PoHo district – with Tai Ping Shan Street as its main artery and the surrounding lanes as offshoots – is, on most days, quietly quaint. You might perhaps chance upon a casual game of street basketball at Blake Garden, but otherwise it is all a hushed repose.

Not today.

With the inaugural PoHo Bazaar in full swing, the neighbourhood swarmed with visitors eager to befriend this funky newcomer. Shops threw open their doors, little stalls served a seemingly endless flow of drinks, hamburgers sizzled on an open grill and soon, a large crowd gathered to explore the nooks and crannies of PoHo.

Here’s a little visual nibble of PoHo – and beyond…

The colourful exteriors of Secret Ingredient, organisers of the PoHo Bazaar: http://www.secretingredient.com.hk

The colourful exteriors of Secret Ingredient, organisers of the PoHo Bazaar: http://www.secretingredient.com.hk

The PoHo party. And then the old man.

The PoHo party. And then the old man.

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences : an Edwardian-style building.

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences : an Edwardian-style building.

En route to Tai Ping Shan Street, the Island Christian Academy's exterior. Very reminiscent of HK's iconic Red White Blue bags!

En route to Tai Ping Shan Street, the Island Christian Academy’s exterior. Very reminiscent of HK’s iconic Red White Blue bags!

Right outside Secret Ingredient. A sizzling BBQ, comfy, drinks, a great atmosphere.

Right outside Secret Ingredient. A sizzling BBQ, comfy, drinks, a great atmosphere.

An elderly PoHo resident watching the party going on all around him!

An elderly PoHo resident watching the party going on all around him!

A shop in PoHo -- Rat's Cave.

A shop in PoHo — Rat’s Cave.

Floral jamming at Tallensia, anyone?

Floral jamming at Tallensia, anyone?

A Chinese store and an English sign - emblematic of the interweaving of cultures that so defines Hollywood Road.

A Chinese store and an English sign – emblematic of the interweaving of cultures that so defines Hollywood Road.

A locked, dilapidated gate...strangely adorned with umbrella handles and even the neck of a guitar!

A locked, dilapidated gate…strangely adorned with umbrella handles and even the neck of a guitar!

The newly opened Fungus Workshop - handcrafted leather galore!

The newly opened Fungus Workshop – handcrafted leather galore! Full disclosure: I am currently in a ‘handcrafted leather’ craze!

A beautiful building on Square Street.

A beautiful building on Square Street.

Beautiful fabrics for sale, just outside the Konzepp store.

Beautiful fabrics for sale, just outside the Konzepp store.

Yes, another one of those old doors, old post boxes photos.

Yes, another one of those old doors, old post boxes photos. Sorry, I couldn’t help it!

The old.

The old.

Lines.

Lines – a little further down from PoHo, on Circular Pathway.

Lines.

Lines. Red, green, brown.

Along the antique street, a shattered ceramic kitty.

Along the antique street, a shattered ceramic kitty.





Two Friends, Two Fighters.

9 11 2012

Cung Le shows off some of his signature kicks.

A big UFC showdown is coming to town. Macau, to be precise.

The world’s fastest growing sport is finally venturing into one of the world’s fastest growing economies: China.

What could this beckon for the future of mixed martial arts? Bruce Lee, after all, was the father of MMA, according to the president of the UFC, Dana White. So it only seems fitting that the UFC is at long last getting a foothold in the vast Chinese market.

I had the pleasure of attending an exciting UFC pre-fight press conference yesterday, where the fighters Rich Franklin, Cung Le, Dong Hyun Kim and China’s very own Tiequan Zhang shed some light on their MMA lives.

Here is a little online feature that I put together for TimeOut Hong Kong.

Friends or foes? Inside the Octagon, they’re only one thing: fighters.





Fist of Glory

8 11 2012

By Calvin Sit

It started with the movies. Then it was the kiddie boxing sets at Toys’R’Us. Finally, I signed myself up for a kungfu class and before long, I found myself sucked into a whirling vortex of kicks, punches, spins and sweeps. Soon, I even headed up to the birthplace of Shaolin kungfu for an intensive (read: painful but memorable) training program.

So it came as a pleasant surprise when, on my very first day as an intern at TimeOut Hong Kong, I was given the assignment of writing a short feature on an upcoming kungfu championship. This was right up my alley!

Are you a novice? Do you have a weapon fetish? Perhaps you seek company, or balance, or an adrenaline rush? I cover all that and more in my  ‘Around Town’ feature, here.

By Calvin Sit

“As the International Wushu Competition swings through town, Mary Hui deciphers the well kept secrets of Chinese martial arts in a rough (but tough) breakdown. Photos by Calvin Sit, demonstration by members of Mark Scientific Ving Tsun Association (麥漢基詠春拳學會).

Crouching TigerHidden DragonKung Fu Hustle. Or, more recently, the ‘Wuxi Finger Hold’, as popularised by a feisty – though pudgy – fighting kung fu panda by the name of Po. Chinese martial arts may seem straightforward in these cases but, in reality, it’s not so simple. There are countless disciplines and styles out there, which may baffle many the budding apprentice. But fear not. As the upcoming 7th Hong Kong International Wushu Competition nears, we offer this guide to help illuminate the way.”

Continue reading here.





The Story of a Rooftop Farm

7 10 2012

I’ve been working as an editorial intern at the International Herald Tribune, the global edition of the New York Times. Here’s my article on rooftop farming in Hong Kong, published on the the IHT and NYT on 4th October 2012 — coincidentally, the IHT’s 125th anniversary! 

Osbert Lam, owner of the rooftop operation City Farm, on his daily watering round.

In Organic-Hungry Hong Kong, Corn as High as an Elevator’s Climb

HONG KONG — Kimbo Chan knows all about the food scandals in China: the formaldehyde that is sometimes sprayed on Chinese cabbages, the melamine in the milk and the imitation soy sauce made from hair clippings. That is why he is growing vegetables on a rooftop high above the crowded streets of Hong Kong.

“Some mainland Chinese farms even buy industrial chemicals to use on their crops,” Mr. Chan said. “Chemicals not meant for agricultural uses at all.”

As millions of Hong Kong consumers grow increasingly worried about the purity and safety of the fruits, vegetables, meats and processed foods coming in from mainland China, more of them are striking out on their own by tending tiny plots on rooftops, on balconies and in far-flung, untouched corners of highly urbanized Hong Kong.

Continue reading here.

Also related to this article is my IHT Rendezvous blog post:

Up on the Roof, a Real-Life Farmville

HONG KONG — Imagine yourself on a sidewalk in the center of a crowded city. It’s summer, the afternoon rush hour, you’re surrounded by buses, cars and delivery trucks, and they’re blasting you with waves of hot, nasty exhaust fumes.

Now imagine stepping away from that chaotic scene, ducking into an elevator and riding up a few dozen floors where you emerge to find a green oasis of vegetables and flowers — a rooftop farm.

You can continue reading here.

The rooftop farm at night. In the background hang colourful lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Festival.





Together Now…

25 07 2012

A quick post today.

As the fiery wrath of Typhoon Vincente subsided, I quickly grabbed my camera and headed out to do a short photowalk around Causeway Bay and Wanchai. A faint drizzle made the photographing a little cumbersome: one hand on the umbrella, one hand on the camera, all the while trying not to get the camera wet and avoiding the pink tint which my umbrella was casting on close-up subjects.

Finally, I managed to land one satisfactory shot on a little side lane in Wanchai. This old couple was walking towards me…I was about to take a hip shot, and yet missed the moment, perhaps too apprehensive of how they would respond to the loud ‘clack’ of my shutter in this eerily quiet alleyway.

D’oh! They walked past me, and all that was in view were their boring backsides. It seemed as if I had missed the moment.

Slightly dejected, I took the camera up to my eye anyway, and snapped a shot. I liked it. It seems like I hadn’t missed the moment after all!

Together Now…