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Increase Your Running Stride Rate

By Ed Eyestone - from

Visit 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.


The Magic Number

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 video clips.

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.


The Workout

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 warm up.

>>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.

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