The Need for Speed

So, today was our first day of training and we started it out with speed drills- two 800m speed drills with some recovery in between. There was a lot of discussion about how to actually speed up. Many of you feel like you are a one pace runner and you may currently be. However, with a little more understanding and some practice I think you will see a difference.
The biggest bit of confusion is how to increase your speed. It’s to just increase your stride length, right? WRONG! That is actually not at all what you should do. When increasing your stride length you are “over-striding” which causes an increased impact on the heel and a larger occurrence of injury. What you should do is work to increase your stride turnover (aka- how many times you take a step in a minute).
The most efficient runners take an average of 180 strides (steps) per minute. Quickening your turnover will naturally increase your speed and will also increase overall leg strength.
Here are some basic tips to help improve your stride turnover:
1. don’t pause between steps. let the leg pull back and allow the knee to follow-through immediately after each step
2. the hip flexor muscle should be used to propel the leg forward. (we’ll work to strengthen the hip flexors in our core class)
3. you don’t want your foot to land real far out in front of your body. you want it to land more under your hip.
4. either count your steps for 1 minute and work to get around 180 or if counting proves to be too confusing and distracting, get a metronome. these credit card sized ones can usually be found at a music store. you would set this to a certain beat per minute and try to stay on rhythm
There are some drills you can do to work on quicker turnover:
1) run 50 yards pretending that the ground is covered in hot coals.
2) After an easy run, select a specific distance (10 driveways, 2 light poles apart- whatever you can do in about 30 seconds), run this distance while counting the number of times your right foot comes down. turn around and go back while doing the same thing but try to get 1 – 2 more steps this time. repeat this exercise 4 – 6 times.
Now, the bigger question is how to do all of this without feeling like you’re going to hyperventilate. Some of this will go away with time- more running, higher comfort level with speed, easier and more natural foot turnover but some of it will also need to be practiced.
The next time we do speed work or tempo runs, focus on your breathing. What is your normal rate of breathing when you’re doing an easy run? Mine is anywhere from 3 – 4. I breathe in for a count of 3 or 4 and out for a count of 3 or 4. Try to maintain this even when increasing your foot turnover. You will naturally want to count faster so do a 1 mississippi, 2 mississippi, etc. Find your comfortable breathing and work to keep your “speed breathing” very near this. On speed drills you shouldn’t be able to have a conversation so don’t try!
Anytime you want me to add in a few speed drills after a run just let me know! We can do a few of these in a matter of minutes. I may just forget so i always welcome reminders!

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