Trotting, Jogging, Running and Sprinting – What is the difference?

I have observed many people pounding the pavement as they go out for their daily run. Some have been lost in the bliss of the runners high while others seem to be struggling along a highway of hell by the looks on their faces and the rhythm of their run. While some are truly runners, many others fall into the categories of jogging or even trotting as they slowly lean into the wind. What is the difference between a trot, jog, run and a sprint? In its most simple form, I have come to believe it is where the ankle on the swing leg crosses the support leg.

For example, a trotter will only lift the swing leg slightly off of the ground and the ankle will cross just above the support leg ankle. A jogger’s swing leg ankle will cross at the support leg calf. A true runner will cross the support leg at the knee and a sprinter’s swing ankle will cross the support leg above the knee with the heel of the swing leg just brushing the buttocks.

In teaching speed and observing runners and sprinters throughout my career, I have learned many drills to teach the mechanics of speed. These drills tend to fall into the categories of push off drills, turnover drills, arm drive drills and posture drills. If the athlete is not crossing the support leg above the knee with the swing leg, then all the other drills are for naught since there is no conservation of angular momentum.

Truly gifted runners in distance events and sports such as cross-country tend to have great conservation of angular momentum and outstanding mechanical efficiency in their turnover and stride mechanics. This is a strength mechanism and cannot be drilled, exercised or trained if the athlete does not possess the genetic predisposition for handling the loads upon ground contact in order to facilitate the turnover as a gifted runner. This is why there are so many joggers out there chasing the runners high.

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