I can remember at primary school age being taught how to swim. The swimming pool was never my favourite place to go and it still isn’t but I still went and I’m glad I did. I’m sure most people had swimming lessons at that age and you probably did too. But did you ever get taught to run? I certainly didn’t. Running forms the basis of just about every land based sport on the planet and if you’re not a decent runner, you will struggle to get far in your chosen sport. That still remains the same for children these days. Whether it’s hockey, football, rugby or racket sports, you have to have good movement patterns and running ability for speed, endurance, agility, and co-ordination. Unfortunately the vast majority of us don’t know how to run properly but here’s three tips that could have you over taking your former self in no time.
The biggest mistake we make is an over stride like in the picture below.
When we should be landing more like this:
With a forefoot landing directly under the centre of mass creating positive angles, no breaking forces, and propelling the body forwards. My clients often say to me “but it feels strange running like that!” Of course it does. You have spent all of your life running in a heel toe action as if you are walking. Running is not just a faster version of walking, it is a skill. If you can master this, you will get much more bang for your buck!
When you think of pure speed, there is always one man who stands out from the rest and that is of course Usain Bolt. Usain Bolt takes 42 strides to complete his 100metres whereas his next closest competitor takes 44. His stride length is a whopping 2.7 metres! He hits his maximum velocity of 12.55m/s after 60metres and then it gradually tails off slightly until the finish line. This takes us on to our next tip. To increase your stride length, you need to increase the size of your “wheel.” A small wheel needs to make lots of revolutions to cover a set distance compared with a larger wheel doesn’t it? When you are running, your feet should be revolving in an almost circular fashion. A key aspect of this is the “ankle cross” when the swing leg crosses the stance leg (see picture below). This should occur at knee height, whereas the majority of runners cross at about half way down the shin, and hence creating a pretty small wheel.
The second way to increase your stride length is to increase your power to weight ratio ie increase power without increasing muscle mass (weight). This is a bit trickier and generally requires exercises like a pretty heavy Deadlift and body weight plyometric exercises like a squat jump. For this you are going to require a gym and a damn good trainer to help and teach you to do these properly. But that’s not the clever bit. Most muscle breakdown, and hence growth, is developed during the eccentric (lowering) part of the exercise. Seeing as you don’t want growth, remember you want to keep your body weight to a minimum, you just do the concentric part of the Deadlift. So basically, lift the weight up fast then drop it down.
So how does all this help a marathon runner I hear you ask? Well your typical good marathon runner takes about 40,000 strides to complete the distance. Each stride has as much as 2.5-3 times your body weight going through that single leg. That’s a lot of impact on each stride never mind doing it 40,000 times! By increasing your stride length by about three inches (achievable) can reduce the number of strides to about 36,000 (I’ll let you do the Maths). So if you maintain the same cadence, with a longer stride length, you are travelling at a much quicker speed. It’s always so simple on paper . . . . . . . .