Run Faster Today with 4 Easy Steps

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I can't tell you how many people come to ChiRunning workshops and tell me that all they want to do is get a little faster. This isn't just your average college hot shot. These are 45, 55 and even 65-year-old recreational runners. Most of them feel that no matter what they do, they don't seem to ever get any faster.

I was thinking about this when I was out on my run this morning and I came up with four things you can do to start getting faster today.

Stop doing what slows you down
Over-striding, heel-striking and running with a vertical body position are the biggest things I see that slow runners down. Over-striding means that you're reaching forward with your legs and feet as you run. This makes your feet land in front of your knees, which is no different than putting on the brakes with every stride. So, let your stride increase behind you, not in front of you.
When you heel-strike your heel hits the ground out in front of your body. This is caused by two things: straightening your leg and dorsiflexing as your foot swings forward. So, always keep your knees bent and your lower legs relaxed. No more being slowed down because you're braking.
Running with a vertical posture line means that the only way you're going to move forward, while running, is if you push with your legs. If you allow your body to fall forward slightly as you run, gravity will do a great job of assisting in your propulsion.

Keep a steady cadence
If your legs turn over faster as you run faster, you'll always have the body sense that the faster you go, the more work it is. And, you'd be right, because it takes more leg strength to turn your legs over faster and to push harder to go faster. So, keep your cadence between 170 – 180 strides/minute regardless of the speed you're running. This will force you to lengthen your stride as you get faster, which comes from relaxation and not from working harder.

Learn to lean and relax
As mentioned in Step 1, don't run upright in a vertical position or you'll always have to  push yourself. Create forward momentum by feeling your whole body falling slightly forward with each step and allowing gravity to assist in your propulsion.

I mentioned relaxation because any body will run faster with relaxed muscles than with tense muscles. Holding tension while running makes your body have to work harder, it restricts your range of motion (needed for speed), and it constricts the blood flow to your muscles (starving them of valuable oxygen).

Do workouts that build your conditioning
No muscle gets stronger until it is required repeatedly to do more than it's used to. So, in order to get faster you'll need more aerobic capacity (your body's ability to uptake oxygen and transport it to your muscles). You'll also need more Core strength to run faster…NOT necessarily more leg strength. If you rely solely on leg strength to get faster you'll spend more time building a bigger engine that guzzles more fuel. Where's the economy in that. Instead, learn how to get more speed with less fuel consumption and less effort. This comes from conditioning your core muscles to hold you at more of a lean (getting even more propulsion from gravity) and therefore getting more speed. But, you end up increasing your speed through leverage rather than through direct work.

I'd be willing to predict that doing only one of these four steps will get you faster. So, can you imagine what might happen if you did all four? These four steps are the building blocks of becoming a faster runner… at any age. And, they are the foundational steps to the ChiRunning Performance classes taught by many certified ChiRunning Instructors. It's never too late or too impossible to get faster.

As my favorite ChiRunning tag line says: “Focus your Mind, Strengthen your Core… and run like the Wind!”

Posted in Beginners