Run season is here. Whether you were smashing out the kilometres all winter long or you’re only just dusting off your running shoes now that summer has arrived, good news: there’s an easier way to pick up the pace – and use less energy doing it – this run season.
Here, run coach Dom Cadden shares his top tips for better running efficiency to propel you to your best running results this summer.
RELAX YOUR UPPER BODY
Holding tension in your upper body wastes energy and slows you down. Unclench that jaw and relax the shoulders and arms, maintaining an angle of about 90 degrees at the elbows.
CHECK YOUR FOOT STRIKE
If your heel always hits the ground first it might be a sign your hips are behind your feet, which is called “over-striding”. When you over-stride, it’s like you’re riding the brakes while your foot is on the accelerator because it takes more effort to pull your hips over your feet so you can push off again. You may not land on your toes or the ball of the foot, but at least make sure your foot lands under your hips. A good way to practice is to run short distances barefoot on a soft surface.
BEND YOUR KNEE'S
It’s best to have your knee bent at a more acute angle when your back leg comes through to the front (the “swing phase”) to assist rotational torque and the production of force needed to complete each stride. Your leg will naturally be much straighter at slower speeds than when running at pace.
IMPROVE YOUR STRIDE RATE
Your stride rate is the number of steps you take in a minute. The oft-quoted goal for runners is around 180 strides per minute or 90 per foot. When your stride rate is slow, you can waste energy moving up and down instead of forwards and your feet can spend too much time in contact with the ground. A slow stride rate might also mean you’re braking with every step instead of rolling quickly over the ground. Running in deep water can help increase your stride rate. Another good drill is hopping in one place. Rest one foot behind you on a step, then hop as fast as you can on your standing leg.
USE YOUR ARMS
Swing the arms right through to behind your hips to help propel you forward.
Stay strong through your trunk without collapsing at the core or chest.
BREATHE WELL, BREATHE DEEP
A lot of runners breathe too often and too shallow, especially when they’re new to running. This means they don’t get the oxygen they need and don’t process carbon dioxide properly. Efficient runners tend to breathe in a 3:3 ratio at a relaxed run pace and 2:2 when they get serious; that is, two breaths for every two steps with the same leg, assuming 90 steps per minute for each leg.
Get the most out of your breathing by forcing your breath right down into your abdomen, so you can see it expanding as you breathe in. For interval training or when you’re pushing it at the end of a race or training run, you can switch to a 1:2 pattern, breathing in for one step and out for two, or a 2:1 pattern, breathing in for two steps and out for one. Don’t worry too much about whether you breathe through your nose, mouth or both – just remember that your mouth will take in and expel more air, more quickly.
Keep these tips in mind on your next run and you’ll be on your way to a more efficient – and more enjoyable – run this summer.