Running Better

Running is a highly individualized and fairly technical activity. What is good for one runner to focus on might be the wrong thing for another.  So, I just want to make a quick comment about the two aspects of running that matter most when it comes to pace (and that is really all that matters ultimately, right?)  I don’t mean to suggest that these are the only two aspects comprising running. Of course, that would be a vast over-simplification.  This is one (useful) way to analyze running.

The two components of pace are: cadence and stride length. There is plenty of advice about cadence, or leg “turn-over,” and it usually boils down to ‘increase it for better running..’  True, most runners probably would benefit from increasing their cadence, a little. But maybe not. What if its already at your optimal rate?  Once cadence is where it should be for you – probably in the 84-94 range – that’s all you can do with it.

Stride length is really where the big gains are to be made for most endurance athletes. This involves a lot of training, a large part of which is strength training. You MUST have a lot of running specific leg, hip, lower trunk (“core”), and even shoulder strength, to maintain a large stride over the course of your race, particularly if you’re coming off the bike.

brownlee-gomez finish

Running fast is not supposed to be easy

Some exercises that you can fit into workouts to increase this specific strength are:

  • Forward lunges (grip dumbbells in each hand and hang arms at your sides to add resistance to this exercise)
  • Box-jumps
  • One-leg hopping
  • Skipping
  • Very short (i.e. 20 second) hill sprints
  • Stairs , as in the kind at a high school football stadium or track.
  • Running in soft sand (be careful with this one, as it’s very hard on foot and ankle muscles)
  • Adding or increasing hills (gradually) to your long run

After you become proficient at any one of these, try combining it carefully with another one for a complex workout.

2 Responses to “Running Better”

  1. Good Q. I believe all the attention paid to foot strike in the last several years is over-emphasized, and sort of misses the point. The important technique focus relative to the foot, is not so much a heel vs. mid-foot, vs. fore-foot strike pattern, but rather where the foot plants off the ground relative to the hips of the runner. It should be slightly behind to directly under the hip. This will encourage less of a heel strike, but there are plenty of elite runners in triathlon who have a heel first strike (and can run a 31 min 10K off the bike), e.g. Javier Gomez.

  2. Greetings! Very helpful advice within this post! It’s the little changes which will make the most important changes.
    Thanks for sharing!

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