Sway v. Swivel


Brilliant teens at science fairs and robotic clubs would have spotted the mistake immediately. If you’re directed to build a two-legged structure that can walk across the room (a very disappointing challenge to brainy robotics types), they’d know right off that my plan was bad.

See, to get from here to there, I take a step and sway all my weight onto that foot. Then I take another step and sway the weight to the other foot. Progress is made, with the kind of hip-sway that makes a long, full skirt swing appealingly at the ankles.

But OH LORD, they cry – that Sophia Loren action is not going to win the science prize. It’s inefficient. It wastes a huge amount of energy. Its top speed is “saunter” – and we’ve got to get going faster than that.

So instead, they build a stationary pelvis with wheels on either side. The legs are linked to the wheels and rotate around like the rods on a train that drive the wheels. NO sway at all.

It’s the difference between a sway and a swivel.

To move like Barbara and other people who love to run, you have to use your obliques. The left hip moves toward the front; the right hip moves to the back. There’s now a twist in the torso. Apply the obliques to yank that baby back front and center. Power comes from the muscles running down the sides.

To move like Barbara, you have to use your glutes. The power comes not from flinging a foot forward and pulling up to it with the quads, but from pushing off the back foot with the glutes.

(I posed to Barbara that if you could do both – push with your butt and pull with your quads – you could maybe fly like the wind; she looked started and then thoughtful. An evolutionary breakthrough?!)

I feel, with this realization alone, that I have graduated from kindergarten to first grade in the running process. Of course, to watch me run – torso clamped tight in an effort to not sway at all – you’d think there was something wrong with me… but I have faith that the tiny, weak little muscles now being called into service will soon power up.

I’ma win the science fair.

Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 3.10.56 PM

So I started out with a Google images search for “science fair.” Wow. Those are some dull images. How about kids in lab goggles? Ooh – steampunk goggles. Wait! Dr. Horrible! Yeah! It has nothing to do with running – but how adorable is this image?!

2 thoughts on “Sway v. Swivel

  1. You should look at this blog for information on “glide walking” by Gokale (https://gokhalemethod.com/blog/62310). It is just like you describe and includes not just running but a way to develop those muscles walking too. I am practicing in the privacy of my own home by resting my hands on my butt and seeing if I can feel when I activate the gluts. It’s fun! Juli


    1. Is it not insanely peculiar to walk around your house with your hands on your butt?! I do it, too! I’m going to check out glide walking – thanks for the lead!


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