Increase Your Running Stride Rate
By Ed Eyestone - from
Runner's World Online
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Once, after a less-than- memorable junior
high race, my dad said, "It looked like you spent a little too much time in one
place." Dad hit the nail on the head: To run faster, you need to minimize your
time in one place. That is, you need to move forward as effectively and
efficiently as possible. And the two determining factors for forward momentum
are running stride length and running stride rate.
When you go from
jogging to race pace, your stride length naturally increases as you generate
more power. Yet despite increasing your stride length nearly twofold, your
stride rate--or how frequently you take each step--remains pretty constant.
That's because stride patterns are hardwired into your natural biomechanics.
But with the right training, you can develop a faster stride rate,
which leads to faster times. Increasing your stride frequency will also lessen
your vertical bounce, because the quicker steps force your body to stay closer
to the ground. This lighter touchdown not only makes you faster but will also
reduce impact, which is a major cause of running injuries.
Researchers have determined that most elite distance
runners have a stride rate of about 180 strides per minute. A quick perusal of
my running video library revealed that an NCAA steeplechase champion, two NCAA
cross-country champions, two Olympic marathoners, and a world record
10,000-meter runner all clocked between 178 and 184 strides per minute. And
back in January, when Ryan Hall set the new U.S. half-marathon record in
Houston (59:43), he did so while averaging 182 steps per minute, according to
To check your stride rate, go out for a run. Get into
your natural running rhythm, then time yourself for 60 seconds as you count
your strides. For ease, simply count each time your right (or left) foot hits
the ground, then multiply by two.
If your stride rate falls below 180,
join the club. Although my stride rate during the 1992 Olympic Marathon Trials
was 182 (I counted while watching a tape), my stride rate on a few recent runs
was more like 160. To boost your stride rate, focus on your cadence during one
easy run per week. Stay relaxed and try to glide over the ground. Also, pump
your arms a little faster and your legs will follow. Check your stride rate a
few times throughout the run to see if you can maintain the increased turnover.
In addition, try the downhill strides workout in the box at left, because a
slight downhill slope makes it easier to turn your legs over and will teach you
what a faster stride rate feels like.
To learn what a faster stride rate feels like, try some downhill strides once a
week. Your ultimate goal is 180 strides per minute, no matter your pace.
>>Find a very gentle downhill on grass or even dirt that is
50 to 100 meters long.
>>Run two to three easy miles to
>>Begin at the top of the slight slope and allow
gravity to ease you into a controlled acceleration as you descend. The downhill
naturally helps you increase your turnover. Jog back to the starting point.
>>Try four to six downhill strides. Cool down with a couple
of easy miles.