7 Ways You Can Run Faster

Whether you run slowly or fast, the frequency of your steps – your stride rate – tends to stay constant. That’s because it’s hardwired into your biomechanics, clicking away like a metronome. Of course, any marathoner can appreciate the difficulty of maintaining a consistent stride rate over 42km. As you fatigue, your turnover decreases. The goal, then, is to train your body to run at – and sustain – a higher stride rate, so that you’ll run faster and finish stronger.

Years ago, researchers determined that elite distance runners ran at a rate of about 180 strides per minute. Indeed, eminent US exercise physiologist and coach Jack Daniels tallied the stride rate of every runner in every distance event at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He found that in events longer than 3,000m, every runner except one had a stride rate of 180. The exception had 178.

While it’s not easy to overcome biology, you can move closer to the optimum 180 strides per minute with practice.

1. Assess Yourself
On your next easy run, count your steps for 30 seconds, then double it to get your stride rate. Repeat this exercise every day for a week.

2. Check Your Form
Your arms lead your legs, so pump them faster and your legs will naturally follow. Focus on gliding – rather than bouncing – over the ground. Take quick, light steps. This will lead to a quicker stride rate and reduce the impact stress that causes injury.

3. Increase Stride Rate, Not Speed
You are working initially to increase stride rate, not overall speed. That will come with time. Avoid the tendency to pick up the pace as you focus on increasing your turnover. Eventually, you want to be able to go from an easy run to race pace, while maintaining the same stride frequency.

4. Get A Running Buddy
Run with a partner who runs at close to 180 and work on getting in sync with his or her rhythm. When running with a team, you’ll naturally gravitate towards their running cadence.

5. Music Can Help Too
If you’re on your own, bring your iPod and run to songs with 180 beats per minute. A quick Internet search reveals enough fast music to stock a high-octane playlist. You can also analyse the songs in your existing playlist with this free software.

6. Ascending 1-2-3-4-5 Fartlek
Instead of picking up the pace, run at a quicker rate. Run 1 minute at 180 strides per minute, then another minute at a more relaxed turnover. Increase each fartlek by 1 minute until you hit 5.

7. Downhill Strides
Find a grass slope. Run downhill for 150m to 200m, focusing on a controlled acceleration. Take short, quick steps so you don’t over-stride. Jog back to the top. Repeat 4 to 6 times.

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