The Once and Future Way to Run

Christopher McDougall has a great article at the NY Times titled The Once and Future Way to Run. It’s about barefoot running and definitely worth a read (even if you’re not into that). He writes:

“Barefoot-style” shoes are now a $1.7 billion industry. But simply putting something different on your feet doesn’t make you a gliding Tarahumara. The “one best way” isn’t about footwear. It’s about form. Learn to run gently, and you can wear anything. Fail to do so, and no shoe — or lack of shoe — will make a difference.

In a section explaining how the Tarahumara people, who’re reknown for regularly doing 150 plus kilometre races, run, Christopher explains the technique called “one best way”.

On maintaining motivation

From “11 ways to make running fun” at Running Nut:

Running constantly alternates between good and bad, easy and hard, exhilarating and boring. The average runner experiences long periods of drudgery, interrupted by a brief period of exhilaration. By keeping running fun you can eliminate these long periods of drudgery. You can also increase the duration and intensity of these periods of exhilaration. Perhaps, you can even make running so fun that it all blends into a constant period of exhilaration.

A good article that lists 11 things to do that’ll help you maintain the fun in running. My favourite, of course is number 5:

5. Run With Music

A recommended read.

Jill Bruyere on hot to run faster

Jill Bruyere share’s training tips in How To Run Faster:

The biggest and most important thing you can do to get faster is to train consistently. Figure out how many days per week you can fit in your schedule and stick to it. And, be realistic. Only you know your time constraints, so do what you know you can and will accomplish each week.

Training consistently is key. At the beginning of 2011 I decided I would do a half marathon in May and set out on a 3 day per week training routine. For the most part, I followed it almost without a hitch, but after the half marathon I didn’t do anything for a full week. I sort of allowed myself a week’s rest, then did a run exactly a week after, and haven’t gone on another one since.

I’m getting up early tomorrow to start again with the routine, but I’m not happy I dropped the ball. Once you’re used to it it’s easy, but one slip and it gets harder to get back into the habit.

Make every minute count

Liz Plosser at Runner’s World:

Runners are a time-crunched crew. Too often, we push back our speed, fitness, or weight-loss goals when life gets in the way. The focused workouts in these pages are designed to make you faster, stronger, and fitter in however many minutes you can spare.

This article has a good collection of workouts ranging from 20, 30, 45 minutes to an hour (or more) and are broken down into categories.

The first series under the title “The busy runner’s guide to getting faster” is designed to improve speed. The second is called “The busy runner’s guide to staying fit”, which includes a section on stretching with photographs to show you how. This is cool. Then there’s the “The busy runner’s guide to loosing weight”, and finally the article ends with a recommendation for how to schedule a week depending on what the goal is (speed, fitness, weight loss) and how many days a week you can run.

Running speed = stride rate x stride length

I’ve discussed cadence, or strides per minute, before. I also confessed that my cadence was 151 on a slow run, which now that I’ve read more about it, turns out to be abysmally slow.

According to most articles (here, here, and here, for example), the optimal cadence is 180 strikes per minute. That’s what most elite runners seem to be consistently doing no matter the distance. So, for a 5k race or a marathon, these elite athletes run at a constant cadence of 180. What makes them faster is the stride rate.

This article in indicates that how fast one can run depends on two variables, stride rate and stride length.

Stride rate or cadence is the number of foot strikes per minute while your stride length is simply the distance between one foot strike and the next.

To run faster you need to do one of the following:

1. Increase your cadence.
2. Increase your stride length.
3. Increase both.

Given that my cadence is crap, I think I’ll focus on increasing that first. This article in suggests doing the following drills at least once a week:

  • Intervals – Gradually increase cadence to 180 in 3 to 5 minute intervals separated by walking or jogging slowly.
  • Dorsiflex – Before hitting the ground, pull up the toes towards the shin.
  • Land on you centre of gravity – I understand this a not stretching the legs forward, instead landing the foot at the same level as the hips/torso.

I’ll give these a go.

My running strides per minute

A few days ago I linked to an article from Runner’s World that discussed increasing stride frequency as a way to improve running efficiency and potentially reduce injuries.

Earlier this week I counted my stride frequency while doing my long, easy run (listening to this Electronica/Dance playlist)

The Runner’s World article suggested increasing stride frequency to 180 steps per minute. At the time I didn’t know what that number really meant, but I assumed it was fairly high. Well, I now know it is, in fact, high.

My average strides per minute was 151.

Granted, it was during a slow run. But still, increasing that by 30 seems like a challenge. I’m doing a 5 kilometre time trial tomorrow and I’ll count again to understand the difference between a long, slow run and a short, fast one. I do expect my frequency will be higher than 151, but don’t know by how much.

On strides per minute

Get your stride frequency up to 180 strides a minute to improve your mechanics and efficiency, and maybe decrease injuries. Pretend you are running on eggs that you don’t want to crack.

via: Runner’s World | Footloose

The whole article has some interesting points/tips about running, but this one caught my eye. I have never thought about counting the strides per minute on my runs, but it does make sense. The more steps you do per minute, the longer the distance you’ll cover, thus the faster you’ll run.

When I was in high school I was part of the swimming team. Back then the coach used something he called “swim golf” to push us to swim faster. It was a similar concept to counting strides per minute. Not sure why it was called swim golf, but it helped us all be more competitive.

To calculate our swim golf we counted the strokes on one lap on a 50 metre pool while we timed ourselves. Adding the number of strokes and the seconds gave us our swim golf score. The aim was to lower it as much as possible. The only ways to lower it were to swim faster (less seconds) or to do less strokes, which promoted better technique.

I’m now intrigued by this “strides per minute” idea. I’ll count them next time and see how it goes.