Many beginning runners believe that the best way to increase their speed when they run is to increase the length of their stride. However, this leads to "over striding" which causes an increased impact on the heel and a larger occurrence of injury. More appropriately, runners should attempt to improve their stride turnover.
Stride turnover, or stride length, can aid a runner in increasing their speed by adding to the number of steps they take each minute. In fact, the most efficient runners take an average of 180 strides per minute. Improving stride turnover is the most important way that a runner (especially one that is just starting out) can increase their speed, and it can lead to an increase in overall leg strength.
There are a few basic tips that can help you improve your stride turnover:
- Do not pause between steps. Let the leg pull back and allow the knee to follow-through immediately after the completion of each step.
- The hip flexor muscle should be used to propel the leg forward.
- Do not allow the foot to land in front of the body. Instead, make sure the leg is landing under the hip so that the body is not thrown of balance and "braking" does not occur.
- Do not pull leg back faster in an attempt to improve stride turnover. This will inadvertently increase stride length, leading to possible injury and premature fatigue.
- Try running with a metronome. This simple device used by musicians keeps a steady ticking beat once set. A runner can utilize this tool to run in time to the rhythm provided. To improve stride turnover, you can increase the beat of the metronome by a little bit each week, thus providing a faster "beat per minute" at which to run, improving stride turnover unique from stride length.
In addition to the above tips that will aid you in your typical running, here are a few drills that can help you improve your stride turnover:
- Run 150 yards at a brisk pace (approximately 75% of your highest speed) before an easy run.
- Run 50 yards, pretending that the ground is covered in "hot coals." Let the foot spend the least amount of time possible on the ground when covering the distance. Repeat two-to-three times.
Utilize these exercises as either part of your warm-up or cool-down and not as an exercise regime in and of themselves.