My goal is to be better than what I was yesterday. I compete with no one but myself. This is my journey of continuous improvement – KAIZEN
The Question. ‘How can I improve my 5k / 10k / half marathon / full marathon timings by doing stuff beyond the normal training regimen of speed, tempo, long slow distance runs and strength training ?’
The Answer. There are is no shortcut to the basics of the training program and the three P’s – Persistence, Perseverance and Perspiration ….but you can give wings to your improvement graph by adding a few tweaks! Four methods worked for me.
- Forward Lean
- Higher Cadence
- Toe-off and Ankle Mobility
- Hip Mobility
The first two are well known and have figured in earlier blogs on Wellthyfit.com while the other two are a novelty for most runners.
Keep your body tall with a slight forward lean of 3 to 4 degrees from the ankles The idea is to increase your running efficiency while minimizing the braking action on your body as shown in the graphic below. Ensure that your feet strike the ground below the knees and you’ll notice the difference in effort and result instantly. What you have done is to use the controlled fall (ie gravity) to drive you forward rather than using the push from the legs (less effort – more results!) ! The most common mistake is leaning forward by bending your back and breaking your posture. Know the difference and be conscious of it while running! Here is a link to my earlier blog on the subject . Key takeaway – SLIGHT FORWARD LEAN FROM THE ANKLES!
It means the number of steps you take per minute. For elite runners this figure is 190 to 200 steps per minute while most of us amateurs run at 170 – 180 steps per minute. The logic appears simple …the more the number steps per minute…the more should be the speed. True…but there is a catch. Your stride length reduces as you increase your cadence! So increasing cadence is beneficial upto a limit. Aim for a cadence of 180 or more. How to do it….here is the Master Runner Alfie’s blog . Key takeaway – SHORT QUICK STRIDES
Toe-off and Ankle Mobility.
To put it simply – how strongly do your feet propel you ! Look at the two pictures below to understand the meaning of toe-off. The left picture specifies toe-off while the right one shoes how elite runners execute it. A strong toe-off means greater ‘air time’ or a longer stride without attempting to reach out and extend your stride
Notice the downward pointing toe before the foot strikes the ground followed by a strong push-off. Easier said than done! Adjusting your natural running style abruptly to this new technique is a sure-fire way to getting injured. Take time to adapt. An increase in calf strength, flexibility and mobility of toes and ankles are required for this. Key takeaway – TOE DOWN, STRONG PUSH-OFF. Three recommendations:-
Japanese Toe Pose (flexibility) : Calves, Foot Sole and Toes
Most of us office goers and desk jockeys have tight hip flexors and low hip mobility. Result – our hips don’t rotate adequately while running. Good hip mobility and supple hip flexors can add one to four inches to our stride length without making the effort to reach out and lengthen our stride. Key take away – CONTROLLED HIP ROTATION. The graphic below is self-explanatory. Follow up with the stretches to see instant improvement.
Core 4 Stretches by Human Kinetics
How to put into practice?
I recommend that you gain more knowledge through the internet, your coach and your running buddies. Do ensure that your warm-up before the run includes the opening up of your toes, ankles, calves and hips. The recommended exercises should be done post the run to see maximum returns. Try them and focus on what works best for you in small packets to let your body adapt to them in an injury free manner.
So at the end …. what have you done – used the forward lean for running with less effort, increased your number of steps per km and increased your stride length. Eureka – a faster personal best time!
Like all things about running….experiment and find what fits you best. A patient effort built slowly over time, allowing your body to adjust, will give you what you seek!
Gee Ess, a runner-thinker-blogger, constantly experiments with various running methods. Constantly improving and learning from his experience, he blogs his knowledge to helps his tribe by keeping them better informed and become better runners.
Always looking for the next big high -physical, social, intellectual or spiritual, Gee Ess got hooked onto endurance running with ADHM 2014. A multitude of full and half marathons since then, he enjoys penning down the intriguing nuances of running that go beyond and hit the mind of a runner.
First you feel like dying…..then you are reborn