Stop Jogging and Start Running. 6 Tips to run faster and more efficiently.
Over the past decade many articles and blogs have been written on running technique in regards to barefoot running, heel striking, stride length, and other mechanics. However, we have missed one major flaw in this discussion. PACE. Most running problems associated with jogging are eliminated if we increase pace and run faster.
The problem with this model is that most recreational runners do not have the cardiovascular support or muscle endurance to tolerate an appropriate pace. For example, a common recreational runner is considered average with a 4hr marathon, but the better runners do it in about 3hrs. The elite do it in 2 -3hrs. If your pace is not below 3.5hrs, then you shouldn’t be running that distance. The Elite runners are training and competing at speeds of 10-15MPH, and that is not on a treadmill.
Running at a slower pace promotes heal strike, promotes deceleration with each step, and promotes impact on the joints and muscles at much greater intensities than increased pace.
The goal of running is to create horizontal force to propel yourself forward. When sprinting we coach a falling start to get your momentum moving forward and keep it moving in that direction. The more upright you get, the slower you go. In distance running, this aggressive forward lean is not sustainable, but the force vector moving horizontally forward is critical to maintain. As we slow the pace down to jogging. The body decelerates with every heal strike and then reaccelerates which translates to more work, hence overuse injuries. It also translates to more vertical force vectors and the runner will have a subtle bounce up and down. This wastes energy and increases force on the joints.
Running faster promotes a forward lean and removes the ability to heal strike in front of the body. Ideally the foot should land under the body with each step. If the foot strikes in front of the body, deceleration occurs and force through the joints increases. Watch the elite runners mechanics and how there heal strikes (or doesn’t) and how the foot hits ground just before the body passes over it.
The image above demonstrates foot strike with the ground (runner wearing number 5), and more importantly the aggressive push off the ground in a horizontal direction (number 15 and 12). Notice they all have a slight lean forward, ie the shoulders are in front of the hips. You can also see how each runners knee is in front of the toe. We call this a positive shin angle. This angle ensures force is directed in a more horizontal direction as the arrow shows. If the knee is directly above the foot, then force at push off will be directed vertically. This results in less speed and more impact on the body and joints, leading to injury.
The challenge with this type of pace is that it taxes the cardiovascular system and is very difficult to maintain. So, yes it is hard to run fast for hours. So I you can’t do it at first, then build up to it. Run fast for as long as you can. As your pace begins to drop to closer to a 4hr pace, then walk for 1-3 minutes to recover. Then run again at the under 3.5 hr pace until you need to rest again. Repeat this cycle over time and you will find you can improve your endurance maintaining a higher pace, and need less recovery intervals.
A few tips to maximize your performance in distance running:
1- Avoid as much vertical movement as possible and have quiet feet. You should NOT feel your body bouncing, as it should feel more of a glide. If you can hear your feet hitting the ground, especially slapping the ground, you have more vertical force than ideal.
2- Fix your gaze. Focus your gaze on the horizon or some distant target and try to keep your head level. Doing this will inherently limit your vertical translation.
3- Imagine a ceiling above you, an inch above your head. You want to glide under it.
4- Think push. Thinking of pushing off the ground will increase your force production and likely gluteal muscle activation which will push you more towards your target – FORWARD. Your great toe should be the last thing to leave the ground with each step.
5- Use your arms. Don’t forget about your arms. Think drive your elbows back. As you push your elbows behind you, it assists your push off the ground to be more horizontal.
6- Take a break. If your pace falls off and you are becoming fatigued then walk. Once recovered, then return to running. Repeating this process will help you develop the stamina to run faster longer and eventually complete the distance you are working towards.