Running is a combination of mechanics (movement) and physiology (fitness). The mechanical side, also known as biomechanics, looks at footwear and ground reaction force. The physiology side looks at how you can improve your body’s heart and lungs ability to provide oxygen to the working muscles. In order to improve as a runner, you must look at the biomechanics and physiology of running to keep making improvements and to avoid injury.
Improve running technique (biomechanics)
Running technique is made up of several different factors, such as:
There may be a number of these components that can improve your running. I would like to focus on how just improving stride length can make you run faster.
Good running technique
In the green diagram the body’s centre of gravity can easily pass over the striking leg and because there is no breaking force you maintain the momentum gained from the backswing causing continuous forward movement producing a more efficient stride.
Bad running technique
There is an optimal stride length for your legs but once this is exceeded (red diagram), it will slow you down. Over-striding causes the heel to strike with the toe pointing upwards. Because the leg is so far out in front of the body it places a breaking force on the body, so each stride you take to move forward will be broken momentarily by the heel strike. This will make your run a stop, start, stop and start action.
Strength training (biomechanics)
Not only does this help you to prevent injury, but it also helps you run faster by improving the force production of your legs. Once you increase your maximum strength then your average force production will increase as well. On average it takes 1400 steps to complete a mile (this can vary according to stride length and leg turnover speed), so a 5% increase in force production with every stride you take over 5 miles will knock minutes off your time. This can be achieved without increasing bulk.
Perform anaerobic work (physiology)
If your goal is to get faster, you need to do speed work once a week up to a maximum of twice a week. Sprint training is a great way to improve long distance running and I mean flat-out sprints lasting between 10-30 seconds followed by a rest period. This type of training is known as interval work, which combines both anaerobic and aerobic work. Try this interval workout once a week
60 metre run (flat out) x 4 with a 1:4 work-rest ratio.
As you get fitter, increase your repetitions and use for 6 weeks.
By the end of 6 weeks you should be doing 8 reps.
If it is too easy, decrease the exercise to a rest ratio of 1:3.
if you’re an experienced runner start with a minimum of 8 reps.
A rest ratio of 1:4 is a more accurate way to determine rest periods. It means that if it takes you 10 seconds to perform your first sprint than your rest period is 40 seconds, and if it takes 15 seconds to complete your sprint than 60 seconds is your rest period.
Gerald has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise, Nutrition & Health. He is an ASA qualified swimming teacher, and a qualified personal trainer. Gerald has developed his own exclusion diet, which he uses to help his clients lose weight.