Remember Usain Bolt’s win at the Olympics? Remember his endlessly long strides? If you do then you probably saw it in slo-mo, because in real time it was all a blur. Slowed down, his long strides were still faster than everybody else’ around (behind) him. The trick to getting your speed better and your runs more efficient is in finding the right balance between the length of your stride and its turnover.
More strides per minute is a more efficient way of running. For example – if you take 80 strides per minute (one stride is left-right), and then increase it to 90 strides per minute, your feet are spending less time on the ground with the higher stride rate. The less time you spend on the ground, the more momentum you gain. The more time on the ground, the more of your momentum you take away, thereby slowing yourself down. This means that you absorb the ground impact into your muscles and joints instead of transferring that force into forward movement.
Don’t worry, most beginners have a slow cadence and that’s alright. Focus on running regularly at first, and with some practice you can increase your cadence. All you need to remember are five simple words.
The first thing to do in order to up your stride game is to start counting your strides. This will not only make you aware of your current position but also immediately tweak your strides marginally. Once you’re aware of your stride count, you have a base number that you can compare your progress with.
Running up stairs can help increase your stride rate. Run up one step at a time, but make sure you do it quick and not at a leisurely rate.
Add more spring in your stride by doing dynamic, spring exercises like skipping rope. The idea is to spring up quickly off the balls of your feet, so spend less time on the ground and skip rope at a incrementally faster rate.
Music always saves the day. If you like to listen to music on your runs, then make sure you use up-temp beats with high beats per minute. This automatically makes you run at the beat, or initially at least attempt to, thereby increasing your stride.
Breaking your run down into short sprints and jogs can really help increase your strides. So the idea is to break your run into two halves of a distance, sprint the first half and then jog the other. But this is not at all about speed. Keep your stride short and quick, and lift your feet as soon as they hit the ground.
A good example of this would be to imagine running on hot coals. In such a scenario you’d keep your feet on the coals for the least amount of time and that’s the mantra for quick strides. If you feel your strides are too short, know that with time the stride will lengthen but it’s better to work on the swiftness before you work on the length/reach.
Try incorporating some of these into your pre-run/run schedule and in a month compare your base strides with your last run’s stride and you will not be disappointed.