Cheetahs on the Edge still shot-- Greg Wilson

A still from “Cheetahs on the Edge: Groundbreaking Footage of the World’s Fastest Runner”

The key elements of the T.I. approach– balance, streamlining, and propulsion– are based upon the physics of how bodies move through water, a combination of the principles of hydrodynamics and the principles of biomechanics. It’s interesting, then, to see how these key elements of movement science that we emphasize in swimming efficiently can be observed in parallel examples in other areas of life, be it in other sports or in nature. Inspired by the incredible slow-motion footage of cheetahs captured by photographer Greg Wilson in his award-winning video (video embedded below), this December 2012 blog from Terry Laughlin is an insightful analysis of what humans can learn from the world’s fastest runners about cultivating efficient speed– and how there are analogous connections between the natural speed of cheetahs and the consciously-cultivated speed of T.I. swimming. Enjoy this rare footage… and Happy Laps!

December 3, 2012profile

I’ve long believed that there are universal laws underpinning the highest skilled movement. Among the simplest is “What Is Most Beautiful Is Also Best.” This extraordinary National Geographic Channel video of the fastest creature on four legs reaffirms my faith in that. These slow motion studies offer an unprecedented opportunity to understand why cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 60mph/97kph. And will probably not surprise regular readers of this blog that I discerned in the cheetah’s running mechanics several matches for key points in T.I. Technique principles (outlined below) — as well as a lesson we could all do well to emulate.


Cheetahs on the Edge–Director’s Cut from Gregory Wilson on Vimeo

Technique Tips from the World’s Fastest Runner

Balance and Stability

The cheetah’s head is amazingly stable.
The cheetah’s head-spine line is always moving in the direction of travel


The cheetah achieves full extension of its bodyline in every stride.
The cheetah uses a compact, relaxed “recovery” (bringing fore paws forward close to the body).


The cheetah runs with its whole body, not its limbs.
The cheetah places its fore paw with striking care — even delicacy. The equivalent in T.I. Swimming is relaxed hands, patient catch, and “gathering moonbeams” (taking care in initiating pressure).

The Lesson

The cheetah sacrifices none of these qualities at its highest speeds and stride rates. In fact it seems to do them most exquisitely when it is moving at maximum speed. It reaches its Maximum Stride Length when it’s also at Maximum Speed — which is, of course, the secret to being the fastest runner on the planet. As we know, human swimmers do exactly the opposite when striving to swim fast. We sacrifice Stroke Length as we increase Stroke Rate– sometimes quite radically. Alain Bernard, while anchoring France’s 4×100 relay in Beijing, being a high profile example; Usain Bolt, in contrast, ran as the cheetah does, achieving his Max Stride Length at max speed. Cheetahs run fast by nature. We must swim fast mindfully.

Additional info about “Cheetahs on the Edge” from director Greg Wilson:

-Winner of the 2013 National Magazine Awards for best Multimedia piece of the year-

Cheetahs are the fastest runners on the planet. Combining the resources of National Geographic Magazine and the Cincinnati Zoo, and drawing on the skills of an incredible crew, we documented these amazing cats in a way that’s never been done before.

Using a Phantom camera filming at 1200 frames per second while zooming beside a sprinting cheetah, the team captured every nuance of the cat’s movement as it reached top speeds of 60+ miles per hour. The extraordinary footage that follows is a compilation of multiple runs by five cheetahs during three days of filming.

For more information about cheetah conservation, visit, DP, Producer – Greg Wilson