There’s no doubt about it: Running can be really hard. But it doesn’t have to be!
“The goal of running faster,” says professional marathoner Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce, “is to run more economically and use the least amount of energy that you can.”
This becomes particularly important in long-distance running. After you’ve run 20 miles, the last thing you want to do is expend any extra energy — you don’t have much of it left! With a few smart tweaks to your routine, you can run much more efficiently with the energy you have — without having to pop an extra gel.
1. Roll Out.
You may foam roll after your workouts, but if you’re not foam rolling before, your body may not be ready for the workload you’re about to subject it to, says Daniel Viera, USA Triathlon Full Throttle Endurance coach. “Most of the time, the muscles can handle it,” he says, “but you want to make sure the tendons, ligaments and joints are ready.” Be sure to hit the glutes, hamstrings, quads, hips, calves and IT bands, spending 30 to 60 seconds on each muscle group before launching into your dynamic warm-up.
2. Drill, baby, drill!
Running fast isn’t about just running forward in a straight line. Drills such as butt kicks, high knees and Russian kicks (resting on one leg and kicking the other) increase proprioception (one’s perception of his or her body and the strength of effort being used in movement) and coordination, says Viera. He recommends beginning the drills slowly and increasing speed and velocity as you get comfortable with them. The payoff: Your body will learn to fire the correct muscles at the proper time.
3. Mix up the pace.
Running your fastest speed at every workout isn’t the key to getting faster, says Viera. As counterintuitive as it sounds, running slower can actually help you get faster! He suggests mixing things up with a slow endurance run, a tempo run and some speed work at a track at least once a week. “Working on your heart, lungs and muscles is the key to becoming a more efficient runner.”
4. Make your form work for you.
Guilty of swinging your arms across your body when you run? “The side to side motion is wasted energy for your arms as it forces your hips to counter the motion instead of powering you in a forward motion,” says Rothstein-Bruce (who runs a 2:29 marathon, so she knows a thing or two about running efficiently). She recommends practicing seated arm drills by sitting with the legs at 90 degrees and swinging your arms back like you’re beating a drum. And when it comes to “running tall,” image someone is pulling you up by your hair while maintaining a slight forward lean.
5. Get new sneakers!
Often, pounding the pavement in old sneakers can lead to injury, says Viera, and injured muscles are certainly not as efficient. Make sure to get fitted for new sneakers every 300 to 500 miles. And be sure to properly break them in by walking for a few miles before lacing up for a long run. Check out our guide to the best running shoes here.
What steps do you take to run more efficiently? Tell us below!