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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Evolution Running
Evolution Running
VeloGear // Unrated // August 1, 2005
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Velogear]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted August 11, 2005 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The movie

The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is never more true than in sports and fitness training. Now let's say that the "picture" is a moving picture, with freeze-frame, fast-forward, and rewind capability, and graphics options to highlight key areas of the picture, and its value skyrockets compared to any written or verbal description. Such is the case with Evolution Running, a training DVD that shows runners how to improve their speed by becoming more efficient in their movement: it's a perfect combination of extremely useful and insightful content with an excellent presentation.

So what's the DVD about? Evolution Running addresses a specific audience – runners who are interested in improving their speed and reducing their chance of injury – and has a specific focus: improving running efficiency by addressing widespread errors in running form and technique. The program explains a particular technique for running that's based on the barefoot running style of the great African runners, one that works with, rather than against, the body's natural biomechanical system. Evolution Running doesn't suggest barefoot running, but rather shows how runners can adjust their technique to make better use of the natural shock absorption systems of the midfoot and leg. That's only one aspect of the technique, however: the "Evolution Running" technique also includes elements like a high rate of turnover in strides, and particular ways to move your legs and arms to maximize efficiency.

The narrator for the program, running coach Ken Mierke, assumes that viewers will find the material presented here to be totally new and radical, and in fact it will almost certainly be brand new for almost everyone. I'd been reading about running technique well before seeing this DVD, though, so I was familiar with some of the techniques presented here, and I knew that they were very well founded. In fact, the credentials behind the Evolution Running program are extremely solid. The program as a whole is under the aegis of Joe Friel, whose classic reference the Cyclists' Training Bible sits on my shelf, and many top competitive runners make use of these techniques, whether specifically through involvement with Evolution Running or otherwise. The "testimonials" in the first part of Evolution Running got a bit annoying (the first fifteen minutes or so is more or less an explanation of why we should watch the program – but we're already watching it, you know?), so I kept thinking "enough already, let's get on with the explanation of the techniques!", but considering that these techniques may seem quite radical for casual or even competitive runners, I can see that Mierke wanted to hammer the credibility of the program home right away.

The material presented in Evolution Running is presented in a very straightforward and clear style. As Mierke explains topics like the biomechanics of running or how to become more efficient as a runner, the key points are summarized in on-screen text. Sure, it looks a lot like a PowerPoint presentation, but the double reinforcement of hearing Mierke's explanation and then seeing the written outline on-screen is extremely useful in helping the viewer actually retain the information.

What really makes Evolution Running shine is the liberal use of visual aids to illustrate and reinforce every point that Mierke makes. To begin with, the concepts are explained through the use of simple, clear graphics that vividly convey concepts that are difficult to convey fully with words alone, such as the path that impact stress travels through the body when the runner lands with a heel strike vs. a mid-foot/front-foot landing. We don't just hear "it's better to avoid heel-striking," we actually see why and how it's harmful to the body, and we see why and how Evolution Running's alternative is superior.

The graphics don't do the job alone, though: the other highlight of the program is the extensive and effective use of footage of actual runners running. Every time that Mierke explains how to do something (or why to not do something else), we see a runner putting it in action. What's more, we see the runner from a clear side shot or front shot (or both, depending on what's being illustrated), so we can clearly see the motions. This is one occasion when fancy camera work would have been counterproductive! But again, it's not just that we see these examples: they're presented in such a way that their usefulness is significantly enhanced. The footage is slowed down or frozen as needed for Mierke to explain key elements of what we're looking at, and on-screen graphics are often added to draw our attention to the essential point being demonstrated in that clip.

Another strong point of the program is that it uses both good examples and bad examples. In addition to showing a runner doing a particular technique the right way, we consistently are also shown another runner doing that same thing the wrong way, whether it's heel striking, a too-long stride, or pumping the arms too much. The conjunction of the two types of examples is ideal, because it lets the viewer learn by seeing the difference between correct and incorrect technique. It's hard to avoid doing the wrong thing unless you know what the wrong thing is, after all!

There's a huge amount of information presented in Evolution Running, and it's far too much to assimilate in one viewing, much less put into action right away. Not only that, but it's quite a challenge to try to analyze your own running – something you've probably taken totally for granted, like walking or breathing – and make changes. The program helps to address that by presenting several drills that will help you to develop the new techniques of running correctly. These are explained periodically throughout the main program, but they're also conveniently located separately in the special features section.

Evolution Running promises to help viewers "run faster, with fewer injuries," and I have to say, this is a program that will deliver on its promises. It's not a quick fix, nor does it pretend to be: Mierke is very clear about the fact that runners will have to put in the effort to learn the better techniques and put them into action. Even so, one of the good things about Evolution Running is that it offers immediate suggestions that runners can put into practice, even if they take a while to get the hang of other techniques. The explanation of running biomechanics and efficiency is worth the price of admission alone, as it will help runners understand and analyze their technique.

The DVD

Video

Evolution Running looks good overall: it's a fairly straightforward program that looks clean and clear in its DVD presentation. The program appears in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

Audio

The 2.0 soundtrack is, like the video transfer, perfectly satisfactory. Narrator Ken Mierke is always clear and easy to understand.

Extras

The special features section doesn't have much additional content, but what it does offer is a useful way to access the specific drills mentioned in the main program. In the "Running Drills" section, you can select any of the six different running drills to watch separately.

There's also a short clip on how to use a metronome in training, another on frequently asked questions, and information on the Ultrafit series, athletes, and coaches.

Final thoughts

Evolution Running is one of the most flat-out useful sports training programs I've seen, and any runner will find it worthwhile. The content is extremely useful, addressing two goals that are of the highest interest for any runner (becoming faster and avoiding injury) with a specific focus on improving running efficiency. The new running techniques presented here are very well explained and demonstrated, and the concepts behind the program are solid and clearly presented. This is a DVD with very high rewatchability, as you'll want to return to it multiple times to firm up your grasp of the concepts presented here, to refer to the drills, and to refer to the good and bad examples of form to see if you're applying the techniques correctly. Highly recommended.

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