Combine speed work and technique training this winter and you will run faster and more efficiently, with fewer injuries.
Perhaps the biggest changes you’ll ever make as a runner will come from speed-work and improvements to your technique. These are the bedrocks of being a fast runner, but they take hard work and dedication. We’re here to help you fine-tune your gait so you expend less energy and avoid injury.
Plus we show you how to train at a variety of paces, so you’ll be fit and race ready for the triathlon season. Put these two things together and you’ll run like a demon this winter.
Your running style has a direct affect on how much energy you expend at a given speed. One way to improve your technique is to have your gait analysed by an expert with a video camera and a treadmill. Research suggests that video feedback is an effective way of improving your gait, but it can take several video sessions to make a real difference.
Another method is visualisation or proprioceptive cues as suggested by running coach Matt Fitzgerald in his book, Brain Training For Runners.
To use these cues effectively you need to focus on them for hundreds or even thousands of consecutive strides on each run. So that means no more jogging along aimlessly, taking in the scenery and wondering what to have for dinner when you get home.
They will not work overnight either, because the movement patterns that influence your gait have been deeply ingrained over months and years of running. Also it takes a certain amount of staying power to realise the full benefits of this method.
With that in mind, here are five cues for you to try. You’ll get the best results if you use one at a time throughout the entire length of every run you do. You don’t need to master one before moving to the next, just pick a different cue for each run. No matter how good your stride becomes, you’ll always benefit from using them regularly.
They’re also a great way of keeping your form sharp on race day, especially when you’re feeling fatigued.
1) Pulling the road
Imagine you’re running on an unmotorised treadmill. In order to keep running you need to pull the treadmill belt backwards with your feet. Visualise yourself doing the same thing with the road when you run outside.
Think about generating forward movement by pulling the road behind you with each foot to help you gain early thrust.
2) Falling forwards
Tilt your body slightly forwards as you run, but make sure you don’t bend at the waist. Tilt forwards from the ankles instead.
Experiment by over leaning to the point at which you feel like you might fall forwards. Then ease back to a point that feels comfortable and in control, but where gravity still seems to be pulling you forwards. This will help you avoid overstriding, because running with a slight forward tilt allows your feet to naturally land closer to your centre of gravity.
3) Bum squeezes
Just as your foot is about to make contact with the ground, contract the muscles in your buttock on that side of your body and keep it engaged throughout the ground contact phase of the stride. This will enable you to maintain greater stability in your hips, pelvis and lower spine and even your knees as you run.
Imagine you’re running beneath a ceiling that is just two inches above your head. To avoid smacking your head on the ceiling you’ll need to run in a scooting manner by actively minimising the up-anddown movement of running. Simply think about thrusting your body forwards instead of upwards while running.
This will help you to run with greater stability by reducing any vertical impact forces.
5 Knee Axle
Imagine there’s an axle positioned between your knees that pushes your knees half an inch farther apart then they would normally be when you run. This helps you engage the hip flexors and external hip rotators, preventing internal rotation of the thigh, a common cause of injuries.