Optimizing Your Biomotor
Get To Know Your Biomotor
What Is A Biomotor?
“Biomotor” is not a common scientific concept, but it is a concept used by us and other running coaches as a way of talking about the neuromuscular abilities of a runner. Your neuromuscular system consists of your muscles and your central nervous system. Every time you move, you set of a process in your central nervous system, in which it sends out signals through your nerve fibers giving your muscles impulses.
These impulses makes your muscles create chemical energy, through a process of splitting ATP molecules, making the muscles contract, and thereby moving us. When we adress the neuromuscular abilities of a runner i.e., your biomotor, we refer to two things: 1. your muscles and 2. your nervous system. Both of these can be improved through focused training, and doing so will not only make you a faster runner with more endurance, it will also improve your form and running style, and making you less prone to injuries.
Improving Endurance And Efficiency
When you improve your biomotor, you become a more efficient runner overall. When we focus on improving the biomoter, we look at 5 aspects of this that have a significant impact on your running economy and that you are able to improve by training:
At Greenmoor Running we are very explicit on prioritizing endurance, but that does not mean that it is of no importance to look at the other aspects. This we do as well, but we prioritize endurance. That means that our focus is on improving your bodies ability to burn fat as a high a pace as possible. Endurance is in this way more important than good coordination, speed, strength and flexibility. E.g. great endurance can outweigh coordination i.e., great running form, by lengths, just take a quick look at the running form of 3 times NY Marathon winner Paula Radcliffe and her bobbing head, or the 2013 NY Marathon winner Priscah Jeptoo and how her knees collapse in while running.
We don’t imply that coordination, strength, flexibility or speed does not matters, we just try to make it clear, that what matters most is endurance. This still leaves us with the task at getting these other 4 aspects into the training programs, so not to leave it out completely. At Runners Training Plan, we have tried to make these aspects a part of the programs themselves within the daily workouts. If you improve just one of these additional aspects, you will see improvements and become a better runner, and strengthening all four of them, will result in great improvements in your overall running economy, hence making you a more efficient runner and improving your performance.
Although endurance is most important, the combination of all the other 4 aspects are equally as important. Thereby, we are saying that in conjunction with improving your endurance, you should work on improving all the other aspects of your biomotor, to reach your full potential as a runner. E.g. you might have a well developed endurance, but bad coordination, slow pace, weak in strength and inflexible. All these 5 elements put together will show as a poor running economy.
Better Biomotor; Greater Pace
At times endurance and running economy is defined as the same thing. This is all well and good in theory, but for all practical matters, this joint definition does not work. The definition assumes that all runners have the exact same ability to transform chemical energy into kinetic energy and use it at the exact same level of efficiency.
It seems obvious that this is not the case, and the defining endurance and running economy to be the same, is faulty. In reality each runners biomechanical preconditions i.e., coordination, speed, flexibility and strength, affects the runner’s running economy in either a positive or negative direction. This means that you are able to improve your running economy by doing targeted biomechanical routines. This is why it is essential to make strength, coordination, flexibility and speed training a regular part of your workout sessions. At times these are combined in one exercise e.g., speed and agility, combining both speed and flexibility, and at other times they are isolated e.g., static stretching. For this reason we emphasize coordination, flexibility, speed and strength as key components of your regular workout, and you will be using a large part of your workout sessions improving these aspects. This will result in you being able to run more effortlessly at higher pace and be subject to fewer injuries. Furthermore, you will improve your ability to transform the produced chemical energy from your muscle cells into directed movement, which is another way of saying that you will decrease the amount of energy needed to move from one point to another at a given pace. That is what we call improving your biomotor.
Measuring And Identifying Progress
To measure the progress of the biomotor, we have to set up parameters, which indicates a more efficient run. We use ground contact time (GCT), cadence, stride length and air time as indicators of a balanced biomotor, in addition to your endurance of cause. You might not have advanced measuring equipment that takes all these measurements for you, but you can make some pretty good estimates, in which you will be able to trace a progression, stagnation or regression over time.
Firstly we will go into the technical aspects of this, and we will then look at practical ways of estimating this, and lastly we will go through the 4 additional dimensions of you biomotor i.e., strength, flexibility, speed and coordination.
Ground Contact Time (GCT), is the time your foot touches the ground, in a leg cycle. This is normally measured in milliseconds. An average GCT is between 300ms and 160ms, and an elite runner would have a GCT below 200ms. For example, a reduction in GCT of 5ms would decrease your time consumption with 3-5 seconds over a mile. That means that you will be running faster, using the same amount of energy, i.e., you will be running more efficiently. The key factors in reducing GCT are:
- Agility as this determines how quickly you can apply force to the ground
- Strength in your foot strike as a stiff leg, when hitting the ground, will produce more free energy
- Coordination as a proper form will balance your run and shave off milliseconds in your GCT
Your GCT is measured in milliseconds, which makes it very difficult to estimate without technical measuring equipment. To obtain your GCT, please follow the guide on our page: Measuring Your biomotor’s Metrics. Many running watches does have a GCT feature, which with a fair accuracy determines the GCT. We are not ready to recommend a particular brand or make, to do this, but most mid- to high-end running watches have this feature.
Cadence and Stride length are closely related and inversely proportional, if you increase your cadence, you decrease your stride length and vice versa, given that you maintain a constant pace. Stride length is a measure for the length of each step you make, and is measured in foot or meters. Cadence is a measure for how many steps you make in a given time period. This is typically measured in steps per minute. The easy way to obtain your cadence, is again a running watch. Again most watches have this feature build in, even if you are looking at low- and mid-range products. You can find a short guide to measuring your cadence and stride length without a running watch on our page: Measuring Your biomotor’s Metrics. Many running watches does have a GCT feature, which with a fair accuracy determines the GCT. We are not ready to recommend a particular brand or make, to do this, but most mid- to high-end running watches have this feature. The importance of cadence have been studied, and research point at a correlation between cadence and energy cost of running. That is, if you increase your cadence, you decrease your energy cost of running, which means that you improve your running economy.
Air time is the time from you back foot leaves the ground until your front foot hits the ground, as the name implies, it is the time you have no contact with the ground and is also closely connected to vertical oscillation (VO). Increased air time is equal to increased vertical height in every bound. This means that your landing foot needs to absorb more energy as it comes to a complete stop. The extra impact can be absorbed by the spring-like Achilles tendor, the energy can be “stored”, and then “released” using their Achilles as a spring, also known as elastic energy. Adding this spring force to each step means less force is required by the muscles. The more you recoil a spring, the more energy it can store and “give” back. This on the negative side, puts a large amount of stress on the Achilles tendor, and makes you prone to injuries, especially if you do not have strong and flexible ankles with a large range of mobility. As you increase your pace and maintain a high cadence, you will likewise increase your air time. It is therefore important to prevent injuries, through proper training. If you would like to measure your air time, you can use our guide on our page: Measuring Your biomotor’s Metrics, or you can obtain the values from a running watch.