Ground-breaking news: runners who are faster than you have longer strides

This year, I got to present along an all-star cast at the USATF SPEED Summit in NJ. Basically, the goal is to breakdown the elements of coaching based on science, and then use this science to bolster what we do on track. Smarter plan = better results. Or maybe I should say smarter people help us develop better plans? This is the conference I was most looking forward to this year, and it did not disappoint.

So let’s get past the sarcasm in the title, and go straight to the big picture: if you run slow, you take short strides and your turn over isn’t that quick. The only way to run faster is to increase your turnover and your stride length. So it shouldn’t be a surprise when you hear that faster runners have a longer stride length than slower runners. But now we get into an interesting question…..is stride length the cause or the effect? Or more specifically, why do some runners appear to bound effortlessly over the ground?

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They are stronger. About 80% of the cost of running comes from holding your body up against gravity. If you have strength reserves, it’s easy to combat gravity and float from step to step.  This extra strength enables more “hang-time” which translates to a longer stride length with less effort. Take home here? Get stronger.

How can you develop running specific strength? You can run. Collegiate and sponsored athletes get two workouts a day, and are racking up big miles. You know what else they do? They lift weights to develop strength reserves. Its highly likely that you don’t have the time and energy to rack up monster miles each week. But take a look at your week. Can you examine your training program and budget 30 min 2x’s a week for some strength work? If the answer is no, take a look back at the Achievement Triangle post…..and ask yourself where you’d like to be.  And if you are over 40, this is not optional. Get strong to get faster.

Want more? Check out this reference: Weyand

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6 thoughts on “Ground-breaking news: runners who are faster than you have longer strides

  1. Ryan

    I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always felt like my stride is shorter than a prototypical runner’s. I do get a bit jealous sometimes when I see these lankier runners with long legs kind of just float by on their toes because I know that can’t be what I look like when I run. How come when I take a peek at their pace on the treadmill, though, they’re usually running at a slower pace than I am? Perhaps they’re just recovering! I do strength training twice a week and find that my pace is still just a bit more labored than the guys with the long legs. Is that a product of my body type or does that really mean that I need to do more strength training or more miles?

    Reply
    1. an athlete's body Post author

      tough to say from the info you are providing…..few things to keep in mind – efficient strides that seem to float by can be at any pace, and result when the person has optimized their motion, and their control of their motion into their running form. So basically, you could have issues with mobility, strength, or your form….or all 3! Sounds like a thorough running eval is in order…..

      Reply
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  4. Chris Lee

    Do you have a list of the optimal strength training exercises to improve your run? Eager to incorporate strength training to try to improve my speed!

    Reply
    1. an athlete's body Post author

      Hi Chris – I’m always a bit cautious to provide lists like this. Why? 2 reasons. First: Different people need different exercises. I’ve got no way of throwing out a generic list to someone that will really target their unique needs. Second: People not used to doing high intensity training need help. I get frustrated when people who’ve never done weight training say they tried weights and it hurt them. I can assure you that it wasn’t the weights, it was the poor form the person had when doing weights. I HIGHLY recommend getting a session with myself, or someone in your area to teach you correct form. Better form = better results.
      And if you are still mad at me for not giving you a real answer, you can see this piece I wrote for bodybuilding.com
      thanks!

      Reply

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