Run easy for faster times

In the second part of this two-part mini series, I look at how a few changes to your running approach can have you flying down the road or mountain in record time! Not just for those looking to ace a time trial, this article looks at how we can all benefit from developing a more efficient action.

Running faster may not be your primary motivation tying up the laces on your runners. The reasons we run are as various as the paths we run down: general fitness, clearing our heads, stamina, companionship, being part of a group, etc. But I feel safe in stating that a motivation for all runner is to learn to run more easily and efficiently.

Run fast by running easy

So the first thing to consider when we think about running faster is going back to basics. Technique. Start simple with a checklist, some of which you can find more detail on in my injury prevention article while others are topics I will cover in future articles.

– Have I warmed up effectively – particularly in any areas I know need a little extra time?

– Am I monitoring about my alignment correctly? – here’s some Chi Running advice if you’re unsure.

– Am I taking enough steps (cadence) to lessen the load / impact on each one?

– Am I breathing easily enough that I could talk, (unless you’re sprinting of course!)?

– Am I maintaining concentration for my whole run and if not how could I help this? Listen to music, focus on my breathing, run on less even ground…

Run faster from behind

Ok, so you’ve checked back in and made sure you haven’t got lazy on any known technical aspects. Maybe this has already knocked a little time off, maybe you’re just right where you normally are. Either way, great: on strong foundations we can build stronger progress.

A little research tells us where the power for faster running comes from: behind you. There is a tendency, watching sprinters on TV, to think that the power for faster running comes from the quadriceps and calf muscles. But this is not true, as this Runners Connect article succinctly informs us.

The key to running quicker is to focus on the Glutes, hamstrings and hip extensors. This is because the key part of the stride to generate more power is as the foot extends back behind us. Granted, the quadriceps play a role in the initial push as well as absorbing the initial impact of the stride, but the real power is in the hip extension.

How to train your bum to go faster!

Identifying where the power is one thing, but how do we then benefit from the knowledge. Firstly, check in with the muscles involved – a visit to a good sports physio can help your assess how much conditioning would be helpful for you to do before making major changes to your running stride. Theraband exercises, plyometric jumps, and dynamic strides are all excellent ways to improve the muscular foundations in these areas.

Once you’re out for your run, start to introduce a conscious firing of your glutes in each stride. Simply, as the leg that is working transfers underneath you, consciously engage the buttock on that side. A common problem for runners is that our gluten don’t ‘fire’ or engage actively in the stride, as Martin Karl discusses in this Tall Guy Running article. This loads the work on other muscles, such as the calves, quads and into the lower back.

This may disrupt your stride at first, or you may notice that you don’t keep it up long enough for it to become a habit. But if you do, slowly you’ll start to feel the possibility of greater power sitting behind you ready to push you onwards faster than ever before.

A note on planning you training

Any changes to your running, whether it’s distance, speed or some technical aspect, will change your needs. Faster, longer runs require more fuel and water. They also need you to listen and invest in gradual progress as a method of working, so you don’t do one great week of progress and then get injured for overloading. So before you strap on your runners and sprint out of the door, have a read of my last article on injury prevention.

Then take a look at Jennifer Van Allen’s training article. She offers some excellent practical tips for how to plan your training. Rather than offer a whole load more I suggest adopting her approaches. I find her comments about not trying to cram in extra miles to your next run if you miss one helpful; compassion is a relevant thought in all situations!

And so a little mini-series comes to an end! I hope it has been a beginning to a useful conversation. Take a look at my ‘Note from the trail’ too, where I speak more personally about why I run. 

More articles on running will be posted up soon, but in the meantime do leave a comment on how these have been useful to you and if there are areas that have really sparked your curiosity as I plan what to write on next. 

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