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How to Be A Faster Runner By Taking Smaller Steps

faster runnerI may not write about it much, but I used to be an avid runner. That was before I dramatically injured my knee a few years ago. Back when I ran high school track, one of the things I prided myself on was my long stride. Then, like many things I thought to be true in high school, my running beliefs were shattered.

Apparently a long stride can stretch your IT band and aggravate it, causing it to rub in all the wrong places and leading to injuries like my knee. One of the things I’ve been working on during my recovery is shortening my stride when I run.

Intentionally running with a shorter stride feels wrong and unnatural. Part of the joy of running is being able to let go and just let your legs do what they want. But since I can currently run a grand total of 45 seconds before the knee pain kicks in and stops me in my tracks, I’m willing to try anything.

One of the things I’ve learned along the way is that shortening your stride as an upside, injury or not. Running with a shorter stride can actually make you a faster runner. Sounds backwards but some of the fastest runs have the shortest strides. A short stride allows for a faster cadence, meaning your legs turnover faster.

Cadence is the number of time your feet hit the ground in a certain time period. Elite runners keep a cadence of 85-95, regardless of how far they’re running. (A cadence of 90 equals about 180 steps a minute.)

So in case you’re trying to improve your 5k or marathon time, or just beat your spouse in a friendly jog, here are some things I’ve learned so far on how to become a faster runner.

1. Count your steps. How many times does one foot hit the ground in one minute? (You might want to hit the treadmill for this one.) You can also count how many times one foot hits the ground for 15 seconds and multiply it by four.

2. Don’t overstride. Keep your steps short. Shortening your stride helps keep you on top of your feet, which helps you hit mid-foot (instead of heel-striking) and keeps your momentum going forward.

3. Keep your feet close to the ground. It should almost feel like you’re shuffling -your feet barely leave the ground.

4. Practice. If you don’t naturally run with a high cadence, it’s going to feel strange. During each run, spend a little bit of time counting your foot strikes – try to achieve a cadence of 85-95.

Ironically, running with a high cadence shouldn’t be as tiring as running with a low cadence. I’m still working on that one…..

What do you do to speed up your running? Do you incorporate running drills into your workouts?

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