Need to reduce vertical oscillation/ bouncing

So, having invested in a Garmin forerunner 620 and used it for the first time last night, I have discovered something interesting about my running economy, or rather lack of. In the past, when running together, my wife has complained about the noise I make when landing on my feet, but until now I've not worked out what the problem was.

[by way of background, I am a 43 y/o male, height 1.8m and weight 80kg.  My goals are to get a sub-40 minute 10km (current pb from 2013 = 41.30) and 1h30 half-marathon (did a 20km race in 1h32 in 2013]

The problem seems to be excessive bounce/ vertical oscillation.  Cadence (average = 175), ground contact time (220ms), stride length 1.30m are all reasonable (I think?) but could be improved.  Vertical oscillation (10.6cm) is apparently really poor, meaning that I waste far too much energy bouncing up and down instead of going forward.

I would welcome any tips on things I should work on in order to improve my running economy.  Is it necessary to do the whole Chi/ Pose (re)training or are there things I can aim to correct over time?



  • I have no idea about oscillation.

    But - at 80kg - you might be able to lose some pounds ?

    If you lost 8lbs - you'd be running at 16 seconds per mile faster.

    That'd put you sub 40.
  • marrowsmarrows ✭✭✭

    If you want to experiment, run along next to a fence or a hedge  - just anything horizontal at about eye level - and keep an eye on it bouncing up and down while you muck about with your form.  I have no idea if this will actually make you a better runner.  Careful not to run into lamp posts.

  • stutyrstutyr ✭✭✭

    Why not but the Chi running book and see if it helps?  The book's a few quid on Amazon, and if you find it inspirational you can then spend more money on a training session etc. However even if you don't need to subscribe to the "philosophy" of the book, you will at least think about the mechanics of how you run and give you some pointers on how you may be able to improve.





  • Cougie - I'll never get to Kenyan weight levels but I agree a few more pounds (I was around 94kg just 18 months ago!) would help. I'm an ex-rugby player with a naturally muscular frame and am probably more disposed to short distances/ sprinting than long distance...however, I'm keen to do more endurance-type exercise.

    Marrows - good idea on the hedge/ fences. I could also try the occasional egg and spoon race!

    Stutyr - thanks for the book recommendation

  • I'm interested in thoughts from anyone on the specific data I've included in the first post.  In the meantime, here is an interesting analysis I've found of the "gazelle v glider" styles of running...presumably, a low cadence/ high oscillation is consistent with gazelle? Gazelle-style running would presumably leave the runner more injury prone?

  • Maybe let a bit of data build up before jumping in and changing things after 1 run. Maybe with a slightly higher cadence (and shorter stride length) the vertical oscillation will fall.

    My runs vary from around 9.8 to 10.8cm. It is not something I am working on at present. I'm about 16kg lighter.  The faster I go the lower the bounce

    Try some sections on a run where you work on your form, marking it as a lap so you can see what is going on in garmin connect. A slight bend at the waist, leaning forward slightly has me running on the mid foot, with feet landing directly below me, making stride length shorter and cadence higher. That gets the bounce factor down. Goater's "The Art of running faster" has a section on running form without overcomplicating things

  • Thanks, Also-ran. I've got Goater's book, which I found to be excellent in all respects, and will re-read that section.

    I'm assuming in all of this of course that high vertical oscillation is always a 'bad thing', which can and should be reduced. 

  • Interesting, Ian, although the comments are just as interesting as the article itself, especially the observation that stride angle is not the same thing as vertical motion.

  • Running form will improve from doing more running and will do more to meet your goals than anything else.There isnt an easier way image

  • ToroToro ✭✭✭

    Mmmmm.  What to say?  I am a 2:55 marathoner with an endurance stride.  I have started getting coached including track sessions he accuses me of running sitting down!  Run tall he says.  

    When I am plodding easy miles I am a little better than you but not much - 8 - 9 VO.

    Races/reps: my cadence improves, GCT drops and VO gets better but the key is looking at how I become sloppy in my form.  Or at least that's how it appears.  Connect with me at totriornottotri on Garmin if you want to see the data.

    It would be interesting to see a good runner's stats.

    Maybe purple isn't "better" but just a colour... 

  • I'm asking myself similar questions after seeing my data output from the 620. My vertical oscilation is around the 10cm mark, with the graph (no legend!) indicating that I'd be better off getting it down to 8cm..  the question is how?

    I did do a treadmill tempo run so that I could keep an eye on the cadence/VO screen and see how the numbers changed as I altered my technique. I did notice that as I shortened my stride (my cadence moved from mid 170's to 180) that my VO went down (from about 10.5 to just below 10), but I couldn't get it below 9cm. 

    So, I'm keen to hear any suggestions too..

    Toro - I've sent a request on Garmin Connect as I'd like to see you data.

    Quite an interesting article, which in summary says that we need to stretch our hip flexors more, and use our glutes for hip extension -

    However, this article found that increasing cadence actually increased oxygen uptake, there decreasing efficiency (I felt it was harder work running at a higher cadence, so something doesn't quite add up for me) -


  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    Its flexibility in the ankles and hips that behind this.

    The main problem is having the fitness and power to deliver the style. Most people simply go into a massive oxygen debt trying.

    My lad (17) can fly around a running track with almost zero vertical oscillation. Looks fantastic, but he can't maintain it.  

  • UluruUluru ✭✭✭

    I've just run for the first time with my Garmin 620. Like you Paris-Runner, lots of interesting figures came out. I was also in the red/orange zone for VO. I'm 5'3 and 53kg's. Apparently my VO was up to 12.4, average was 10.7, but down to 6 going uphill. I was doing intervals, besides the hill, but my speed didn't seem to have a big impact on my VO.

    My cadence is the same as yours, 175 and ground contact slightly longer at 230.

    Mind I did feel really tired on today's run so it will be interesting to see if that had an impact on VO when I run next.

  • I run along yellow lines for practise...

    actually I'd say it shows a weak core, I did a couple of months of kettlebell weights and felt a huge difference in being able to keep upright. Helped a lot when running into wind as well. 

  • I usually average about 6.2 up to 7 tonight, not sure why, wind n a bit lazy? 

  • Yes, the kettlebell swing, the fundamental move, is great for runners because in addition to the quads it strengthens everything along the back of the body that you don't see in your mirror. This is particularly important for maintaining good form and hence running economy when getting tired towards the end of a marathon.

    I can see that having good form and a tall stance might appear to reduce oscillation (together with a shorter stride). If you visualise the opposite: any tendency to slump forward on each stride (like a boxer punching on alternate sides) will make the head bob. A good back will help prevent this.

    A shorter stride is often recommended in itself (180 spm or more). When both feet are off the ground (the definition of running vs walking) the body is in ballistic flight - like a cannon ball. If you keep the same speed but want the ball (your foot) to hit the ground earlier to get a shorter stride, it follows that you have to point the cannon downwards. In other words, your head must follow a flatter trajectory, ie, less vertical. Therefore, a way to reduce vertical oscillation is to have a shorter ballistic flight time ie shorter stride. A caveat is that having a stride longer or shorter than feels right will use more effort, as already remarked. It should come with practice, within reasonable limits.

  • UluruUluru ✭✭✭

    Hi Booktrunk, interesting theory. 2 years ago I may have agreed this was true for me but not now. I climb a few times a week plank everyday (2 mins:30sec) and do circuit training once a week. My core looks to be quite strong, if seeing the outline of your abs and the above means it's strong.

    I'm going out on my LSR tomorrow i'll try to focus on sortening my stride length and see what difference it makes.

  • Uluru: doesn't seeing your abs mean you have a low body fat percentage? Not necessarily although, I'm sure in your case it does mean having strong abs.  image

  • UluruUluru ✭✭✭

    Perhaps it is also a bit of that. But I'm pretty sure it's not my core that is weak, given the amount of core exercises I do and I mostly run off road, which I think is supposed to also help with your core.

  • Remember abs isn't the same as core. You need to do develop all the muscles to have a strong core.

  • ShazmoShazmo ✭✭✭

    Going slightly off topic - has anyone had problems with their FR620 not picking up certain stats? Mine is less than a week old. First couple of runs I got cadence, VO, Ground Contact I'm only getting cadence (still getting the usuals - pace, distance hear rate though). VO and GCT have disappeared image

  • A couple of updates to this thread:

    Firstly, I've noticed that increasing my candence to closer to 180 (before was around 164-170) has had a noticable impact on vertical oscillation, although still slightly above 10.  An improvement from the average of around 11 for the 6 months prior to increasing cadence [as an aside, I'm also doing much more Zone 2/ easy runs than before and focusing on form]

    I've also found this useful video which emphasises the need to focus on driving forward/ directing the takeoff forward rather than vertical. This isn't something I'd read about before today but makes intuitive sense. I'll give this a try and see if I can finally get below 10.

  • IMO that's functionally equivalent to thinking of getting faster by pushing out with the back foot, not reaching with the front foot.

  • So pushing rather than pulling (or 'pawback') is to be advised? The video tells you that you need to drive forward rather than vertically but is less helpful in precisely how you do this.

  • There is no 'driving forward' in running -it's an illusion.

    Focus on keeping your knees bent at all times. No pushing -off, just pull your foot off the ground quickly towards your hips.

  • Update on progress:

    10km Run last night, 40% tempo rest @ easy. Vertical oscillation 9.9, first time below 10, with cadence at 178 (versus 12 month trailling average 164) and ground contact time 216. Beginning to get more used to the higher cadence and finding it comes more naturally now.

  • NayanNayan ✭✭✭

    I run with a garmin 910xt+footpod and HRM. I see stride length and cadence data in my splits on GarminConnect but I can't figure out how to find vertical oscillation or ground contact time.

    Any advice would be appreciated.


    Edit: I see now this is a 620 only feature. My bad

  • Update: 9km run this morning @ easy pace. Focused on bending knees when running, allowing easier pelvic/ hip rotation, straight upper body, keeping high cadence.  Result average speed 5.05/km for 96% Z2, cadence 178, vertical oscillation 9.7 (a new low), ground contact time 216, stride length 1.11m (I am 180cm, but have fairly short legs).

    Put it all together and what does this show? I suppose I should be encouraged that the 'numbers' are starting to look 'better' in terms of the running dynamics chart that Garmin shows on their connect site. I'm aware also that there are many things I'm trying to improve at once (cadence, oscillation, staying in the Z2 zone) and this is not recommended. Usually, the advice is to focus on one thing (e.g. cadence) and then work on the others over time. I'm really less interested in improving such data according to what Garmin's running dynamics show for the sake of it than I am in reducing my time for races over 10km, semi marathon etc. I'm assuming there is a link between being in the right colour per Garmin and performance and hipe improvement in running dynamcis will translate into the results I am looking for.

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