Hi y’all! I am off on a week long work conference in Seattle and am pretty much working around the clock so for the next week or so, you’ll get the chance to hear from some pretty amazing guest posters here at Eat Pray Run DC. I hope you’ll enjoy the change and pace and discover some new to you bloggers! I’ll be back next week and will be checking in as I am able on Twitter & Instagram.
First up this week, we have Michele sharing her five tips to help increase speed! Thanks Michele!
For a long time I ran the same 9:45-10:00 min/mile pace and never thought about speed. But whenever I increased my mileage, I’d get the same aches in my glutes and lower back. After my second child, I decided if I was going to run and stay with it for the long haul, I needed to do it right. I researched how to run more efficiently and realized I wasn’t getting the most out of my running because I was doing many things wrong. Here are a few things I’ve learned. I am not a personal trainer or a coach, just sharing things that have helped me. After implementing a few concepts, I’ve taken my pace down to an average of 8:00 min/mile.
1) Form: The biggest change I made was with my stride. I used take longer strides and have my heel land out in front of me. This is like putting on the breaks every time you hit the ground – all that force goes right up your leg. Instead, concentrate on your foot landing underneath or slightly in front of you. Think land, grip, and pull: pull the ground with your foot and kick your heels toward you butt. Here are 3 videos which I found to be helpful:
Short version: proper running form explained in 30 seconds!
Medium Length: 3 minute tutorial
Long Version: 5.5 minutes showing a comparison between heel striker and midfoot striker. This version gave me the best visual.
2) Cadence: To help with taking shorter but quicker strides, I sometimes run to a metronome. The ideal cadence is 180 bpm, which for me is pretty fast and not something I can keep up with for long distances. I’m closer to the 160’s or 170’s. The metronome forces me to think about my feet striking the ground at an even rhythm. I visualize bringing my foot back down to the ground quicker, and rather than taking too long of a stride. You can find many free metronome apps for your phone. Start at whatever cadence feels comfortable, and practice increasing that cadence slowly.
3) Terrain: I try to run on grass once in awhile. It’s not only better for your joints, but it also works your muscles in a different way and increases the overall strength in your legs. I tend to run lighter on grass and it’s a good way to wake up the muscles needed to land more on the forefoot. Just try and find a relatively even area and watch for holes and rocks!
4) Pace: One of the biggest mistakes I made was running the same pace all the time. I believe this doesn’t challenge your muscles, causing you to use the same ones all the time, leading to muscle imbalance and eventually injury. Running at a slower pace give your body a chance to recover and an opportunity to focus on form. More than likely, as you move into shorter,quicker strides, this may slow you down some at first anyway. By running with people a little faster than you, you are challenging your muscles and therefore strengthening them.
5) Strength Train: Another mistake I made was thinking more was better. I only focused on increasing the miles and thought that’s how I’d strengthen my legs. But runners need to strengthen the core, glutes, and hamstrings as well. Some favorite core exercises of mine are planks, plank ups, hollow rocks, and sprinter sit ups. I incorporate squats and deadlifts to strengthen my butt and hamstrings. Lastly, I can’t stress enough how important plyometrics are. These exercises really strengthen the “pushing off” motion you need for running efficiently. Plyometrics are jumping exercises like jump squats, 180 jumps, scissor jumps, or tuck jumps. Here is a tutorial on a few of these exercises.
Teaching your body to run efficiently will help you get the most out of the energy you put in, resulting in a faster speed. For me, this also helped me push past the weight plateau I was hanging on to for years. It’s important to consistently change your routine and change up the muscles you are working. This prevents overworking certain areas, which usually results in injury. Concentrate on your body as a whole. Strengthen it and make it more efficient. The rest will fall into place!
Michele is a married mother of two, runner, triathlete, aspiring yogi, Navy Veteran and blogger. She writes about how fitness isn’t just about your dress size at her own blog own blog, A Pace of Balance. Michele also contributes to the Family Fitness section of We Know Stuff, a parenting blog based on Long Island. Connect with Michele on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.