Physics major teaches teammates the science of running

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Figuring the physics: Alessandro Mazza, a track team runner and a physics major at Lewis University in Romeoville, uses his scientific knowledge to work with teammates to properly warm up before running. Warming up at Lewis University are: Max Sliwa from Yorkville, Kayla Patterson from Fort Wayne and Sarah Kearney from Glen Ellyn. | Mary Compton ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Alessandro Mazza, 20, a junior at Lewis University in Romeoville, majors in physics and chemistry. He minors in math.

But what he really excels in is the mechanics of running.

Mazza, originally from River Grove, is on the university’s track and cross country teams.

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“Way back in high school, my interest was in soccer,” Mazza said. But, his school didn’t have a soccer team, so he played on a club team.

Looking to stay fit, he joined cross country and sped through sectionals and into state competition.

“Since then I realized maybe I was a little better at running.”

His math and science background, which has been strong since grammar school, helps him develop an understanding of the body’s movement.

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This has been useful for cross country, and the 1,500 and 5,000 meter runs in track.

It also comes in handy for business.

Efficient running mechanics

About once a week, Mazza teaches classes at Sub5 Running Dynamics, which recently opened in Arlington Heights.

“I teach mostly dynamic running classes,” he said.

He joins owner Janet Leet in improving customers’ running mechanics and strengths for injury prevention.

“The goal of it is to get them to feel the difference between how they are running currently and a more efficient mechanic that would make them faster,” Mazza said.

The idea is to create a forward-up running mechanic, which will lessen chances of injury.

“Some people lean too far forward when they run, for example,” he said. “So with those people we see a lot of knee issues.”

They work with individuals to a healthier, more productive form.

“Instead of saying, ‘you lean forward when you run,’ we try to help them understand the difference between the lead and being upright,” Mazza said. “Some coaches say ‘relax your shoulders;’ if you run and get tired, it’s difficult to remember. We’d rather give the athlete a drill that corrects that error.”

Mazza shows how to use multi-joint exercises to relieve poor tendencies.

“Athletes I work with, I like to let them come to that conclusion themselves,” Mazza said. “You break them of their bad habits but we do it in a way that is more natural.”

Limiting chance of injury

He and Leet have been involved in injury prevention programs the past two summers. Last summer, they worked with YMCA Camp Benson in Mt. Carroll.

Mazza also worked with Robert Narcessian at St. Joseph Hospital in Newark, New Jersey.

Whether in person or over Skype, Mazza’s used running mechanic drills for injury prevention running mechanics exercises.

“There’s a big neuromuscular thing, but it’s kind of complicated,” he said. “It’s all based on biomechanics equations, and physics helped me understand it. But you don’t need physics to understand it.”

He said injury prevention hits home for him as a student athlete. While he’s had close calls himself, he’s managed to stay in pretty good condition. When that isn’t the case for other teammates, Mazza volunteers to help them recover.

“There’s one athlete in particular, she’s a sophomore on cross country and track. She’s red-shirting this whole year,” Mazza said. “She’s had shin issues for about a year straight and the head women’s coach came and let me do my thing with her. She’s red-shirting this year, and he figured it was worth a shot. He’s worked with Janet (Leet) prior to this.”

Mazza worked with the student for about a month.

“We have her doing the forward-up running mechanic,” he said. “It’s really relieved her pain.”

Future plans

After Lewis, he wants to continue his education in sports science, sports medicine or biomechanics.

“I would like to go on to the German Sport University in Germany,” he said. “It’s one of the better sports academies in the world. After school, I’d love to come back here. This avenue of trying to prevent injury has been very productive in my experience.”

He thinks it could transcend into all sports and could be taught in schools and in gym classes, meaning fewer injuries, surgeries and need for physical therapy.

For more information on Sub5, visit www.sub5dynamicrunning.com.