It’s big weekend ahead for some of our readership. Some of you will be heading to Birmingham to spectate if not compete at the British indoor championships. For some in our masters community, you will no doubt be heading to Sheffield for the British Masters championships at the English Institute of Sport. For our budding students, you have of course the BUCS indoors which are fast approaching between 23rd and 25th February.   

Whist outdoor running and its indoor variant share commonalities, here we highlight just a couple of key differences in the realms of the biomechanical and the tactical before signposting you to some specific S and C work which is likely to be of value should you decide to step onto the boards at some point this winter. 

Tactical differences

Its precisely because an indoor track is half the size of an outdoor 400m circuit that overtaking has to be more strategic and the windows of opportunity to do so are far more limited. Good practice dictates that it’s the norm to try and overtake on the straights rather than the bends as the latter can lead to greater energy expenditure but one is spending far less time on an indoor back straight and home straight in comparison with an outdoor track. Lewis bagged a British indoor championship gold medal over 1500m back in 2012 and explains that, “tactics play a huge part in indoor racing, or short track as we are calling it these days. I remember having less time to think about every decision, but I recognised how important these decisions were. I used to see that as an advantage, as I loved the tactical side of racing and I felt like that played into my hands. Having less time to think about things, but knowing these things could make a big difference to the outcome of the race result, was something I thrived on”.

As well as tactical differences, there are key biomechanical factors which most be accommodated for when running indoors. 

NLC Founder Lewis Moses winning a Bronze medal in the men’s 3000m at the British Indoor Champs

Biomechanical differences

An understanding of the biomechanical differences between indoor and outdoor running requires an appreciation of Newtonian Physics. You may recall from science lessons at school that Newton’s first law of motion states that an object will continue at rest or in uniform motion unless some external force acts on it to change its state of motion. The indoor runner is basically subject to much greater centripetal forces compared to the outdoor track runner. This is because the radius of the circle is effectively reduced by half on an indoor track. Grimshaw et al. (2007) articulated the centripetal force as a counter seeking force directed to the centre of rotation when objects move in a circular path. So put more simply, for each and every stride forward which you take, there is a need to travel laterally to keep going round the bend. 

Newton’s 2nd law of motion tells us this force will cause a centripetal acceleration in the direction of the force which is why if you have run indoors previously you may have experienced the sensation of struggling to avoid hitting cones often placed on inside line, especially as fatigue sets in.  After his British indoor 1500m title in 2012, Lewis went on to represent Team GB at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul and notes that, “In the build up to the World Indoors, I ran a race in Birmingham, where I committed to the pace and this caught up with me in the final 300m. I found it really hard to avoid kicking the cones, as my legs felt like jelly. I felt like I was having to focus really hard, despite being very tired and this was something I had to be aware of in future races. Running around the bends indoors, at speed is a real skill and one I practiced by training ‘on the boards’ especially when the weather was bad.”

Hall (2007) noted that its subconsciously natural for runners lean into curve to offset torque created by centripetal force acting on base of support. This inevitably puts pressure put on the subtalar joint situated just below the ankle which causes inversions and eversions (when the foot turns inwards and outwards). The good news is that you can train for indoor racing without having to effect sessions on a track which is likely to be inaccessible to you unless you live near say London, Sheffield or Glasgow.  

Your starting point should be to revisit our recent drop on fartlek running (available at: This being said whilst the change of pace inherent in ‘speed play’ will help prepare you for the demands of indoor racing its only when you effect this mode of session off road on grass or trails that you will get the strength and conditioning benefits for foot and ankle strengthening due to the uneven surfaces you will encounter.  

Strength and Conditioning Interventions

If you are a New Levels Coaching athlete you have the benefit of access to our Final Surge Platform and our dedicated S and C conditioning drills. You will be able to locate a dedicated short session led by Lewis designed to challenge foot and ankle inversions and eversions. You will hear Lewis using the ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’ mnemonic to recall how his banded demonstrations develop the ‘T’ (tibialis posterior),  ‘D’  (flexor digitorum longus) and ‘H’ (flexor hallucis longus) muscles. You could then diversify your S and C work to include towel grabbing with your toes, toe raises and single leg balance work on a BOSU ball or wobble board. 

This leaves us with two questions for self-reflection:

  1. What have I done in my normal running routine to habituate the sudden change of paces which are tactically typical of indoor racing?
  2. How have I ensured that I am physically robust enough to cope with the specific biomechanical challenges of indoor racing? 

Lewis Moses is the founder of New Levels coaching and a former Team GB athlete who won the British indoor 1500m title back in 2012. Matt Long is a New Levels Coach who has team managed or coached for England or Great Britain on 19 occasions. He has guided two athletes to become World Champions and two to European titles.