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.
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)
- One-leg hopping
- 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.