Run faster, with the same effort…
…Is that possible?
YES! Two simple cues and the right foundation make a huge difference. Let me introduce Karen:
She is an experienced runner who started working with me a few months ago because she wanted to be a better runner. She wanted to do a half ironman run a marathon, without increased injury risk, and she wanted to run faster! Karen has been great to work with because she really did her ‘homework’ – working hard to improve her strength and running mechanics. She had spent 3-4 months focused on running cadence, stride width, muscle strengthening and plyometrics to make her more of a bulletproof athlete. She was now ready to move onto more challenging running technique changes and finally experience the big payoff she’d been working for: increased speed! With two new technique cues, Karen was able to instantly increase her treadmill running by 1.5mph without a noticeable change in her effort! Cues allow us to learn a new skill, and it has been found that external cues are more effective (Check out our previous blog where we explain how cues work) Look out PRs – she’s coming for you next! Check out the video below to see how it worked.
So, what are the cues that enabled Karen to increase her speed without really changing her effort? As much as I’d like to share them with you today, I’m not going to do that, because attempting them without the proper foundation can result in injury. My goal in everything I do – through this blog and with my clients, is to help you meet your goals safely – injury prevention is #1! But I will tell you that the key to her increased speed was increasing her hip extension.
When a runner wants to increase speed they can either alter their cadence or their stride length or a combination of both:
- Increased cadence –
- We have previously discussed the benefit of increasing cadence for injury prevention, but for the most part, this means that your stride will shorten as your cadence increases, meaning your speed will probably stay about the same.
- Trying to increase cadence to go faster often ends up resulting in overstriding.
- Increased stride length –
- I typically see this lead to overstriding, which leads to a braking/loading effect and corresponding increased injury risk.
As you see, in both cases, when someone tries to increase speed there is a risk of overstriding which risks injury due to increased loading, and actually is slightly self-defeating as it has a braking/slowing effect every stride. Instead of trying to think about increasing pace using either of these methods, a better way is to get the hip further behind into extension. This way, whichever of the two methods (cadence or stride length) comes naturally to the runner for increasing pace, it will be less likely that overstriding is a problem. I stated above that Karen increased 1.5mph without increased effort – if she had not put hard work in for strength and conditioning this would not have been the case. To get the leg behind her and to bend the knee asks different things of the leg muscles. For example, if the runner is weak in the gluts and very strong in the back I see people trying to get their leg into extension by swaying their back. This does not always cause problems, but that runner is missing out on using the power and strength of their gluts! Karen has been able to harness this power and has become a faster and more efficient runner!
Whether you are an experienced runner or just starting out, I would love to hear from you to discuss how I can help you enjoy running better, faster, and more safely. As the only clinic in north Alabama providing video running analysis we have the tools to help you meet your goals. If you have quetions, please drop me an email or a phone call.