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The Right Way To Approach Your Stride Length

A lot of runners keep their feet on the ground too long and it all comes down to your stride.

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When she first started running 25 years ago, Valerie Hunt thought she should be pushing off of her back leg and reaching forward with her front leg to cover more distance, increasing stride length. She tried to run like this for about 5 years, incurring lots of miles, injuries and virtually no change in running speed. Then in 2000, she discovered the Pose Method  by Dr. Romanov, and her paradigm of running was shifted forever. “Increasing speed is about pulling the foot versus pushing or reaching and falling, using gravity to move forward.”

Founder and coach at RUNATX in Austin, Hunt has been working with Dr. Romanov for 10 years and is a Master Level Pose Coach. So how can runners effectively utilize their stride and cover more distance? We chatted with Hunt to find out.

How can a runner know how long their stride ‘should’ be?

To run at a faster speed, the goal is to increase your cadence, pulling your foot from the ground quicker. The less time you are on the ground equals more time in the air, which is where forward movement happens. As soon as you have pulled your foot from the ground, immediately pull the other; this is how you increase travel distance or stride length.

Runners can work on stride length—the distance they travel (in the air)—by practicing with a metronome. 180 bpm is the goal, and as speed increases, so does cadence, and the ideal is up to 230 or higher for 100 meter sprinters.

RELATED: Efficient Running Cadence

If you focus on cadence and pulling the foot quickly, you will cover more ground. If the focus is on reaching, or extending the forward leg, this actually reduces speed by keeping the runner on the ground longer as they have to wait for their body to catch up before moving forward again. Practice running in place at 180 bpm, then initiate movement by pressing your hips and shoulders forward, and feel that your feet are keeping with to your body.

Are there drills you can do to get more from your stride?

Skill drills to get the most of out each step in your run include hopping and falling. I like to call it developing your ‘springs.’ Working on muscle elasticity will help you both increase your speed/distance and delay fatigue.

Hops: Stand with your knees bent, body weight in the ball of your foot and start hopping. Maintain the knee bend, and know the foot should barely pull from the ground. Do 10 hops, run 10 meters and repeat three times.
*Progress to single leg hops and jump roping

Falling: Stand in front of a wall with your knees bent and body weight in the ball of the foot with arms out in front of you. Fall into the wall, keeping your shoulders and hips in one line, with knees bent. Place your thumb on your belly and palm below to feel your core ‘activate’ as you fall. This is your general center of mass (GCM)—imagine it as your gas pedal for your run. Fall 10 times, then turn and run 10-20 meters; you will feel ‘lighter’ as you find your feet keeping up with your body.

What is the best way to ‘practice’ your running stride?

The best way to practice is to include speed intervals in your training. Once a week, include a short interval session, 20 sec to 2 minutes. Do repeats from 6-12 (6 X 400 meters or for 8 X 200 meters or 12 X 100 meters). Set your metronome at 195-200. Long intervals are also a good add and can be included in longer runs as ‘pick ups.’ For example, run 10K and every odd mile run all out, recovering on the evens, or try this on a 10-mile run progressive run.

RELATED: You Don’t Have To Be Fast To Do Speed Work

Do your shoes affect your stride?

You want to wear a comfortable shoe that is flexible and preferably a zero drop. You do want comfort, but not too much padding as you want your foot to find a stable position. Always include foot strengthening (towel pick ups with toes or walking barefoot, for example), mobility (ankle circles) and stretching to maintain healthy feet and prevent injuries.

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