What is the key to keeping your running sharp and efficient? Answer: A higher number of active muscle fibers working together to propel you forward. What is an easy, low time investment way to keep your nervous system firing a greater number of muscle fibers? Strides! These are a simple, yet effective way to keep your form sharp and your muscles firing on all cylinders.
How do you do strides? Pick a flat area of ~ 100 meters either on a road or a track with sure footing. You can use grass too which will challenge some of the smaller muscle groups in your lower leg and ankle. Once you have found your real estate you will start at an easy jog and gradually accelerate up to 90% of your highest running speed. You may want to start slower than that, say 75-80% of your top speed, especially if you haven’t done any faster running recently. So use the first 50-60 meters to accelerate up to that speed, hold that speed through the 100 meter mark and then slowly decelerate to a stop. Take 30 sec – 1 Min to rest and then repeat. Start with 4 strides after your runs 2-3 times per week. These shouldn’t cause you to get too out of breath, these are muscle and nervous system drills, they are not meant to challenge your respiratory system. If you are getting out of breath take a little more time between repetitions to make sure you recover well. A good sign that you are doing them at the right speed and with the right rest interval is if the last couple feel better than the first couple.
These strides activate muscle fibers that have been dormant through running the same speed every run. More muscle fiber activation means your are using more muscle fibers to share the workload of your run, therefore running more efficiently. This aspect of training applies to all the distances and should be incorporated year round, even if you are in a rest/recovery phase of your training. Maintaining these drills through rest and recovery phases help you remain sharp and start your next training phase primed and ready to go. Not only are they effective, but they’re fun. So go out and run!
BONUS TIP: Do these in your racing flats or minimalist shoes to maximize muscle recruitment
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Today was the first day with subzero temps and lucky for me I had a track workout scheduled for the indoor track here in Madison at the Shell on the UW campus. I have to admit my training has taken a back seat the last couple months, but to get on the track felt really good even though I had to run my workout much slower than I would have liked. For my other runs and for other people that are running through these cold months, I wanted to touch on some key points to maximize your run as well as keep some of those aches and pains at bay.
The main challenge and one of the main factors to a successful winter training season is getting your body primed to head out the door. Many runners I know have more aches and pains through the winter months primarily due to the colder temps that can make the muscles and joints tighter and less resilient to the daily impact forces running produces. One way to combat this is to have a well thought out pre-run and early run routine. There are 3 main points I want to hit that I feel are the most important aspects of prepping your body for these frigid temperatures.
As a coach you can imagine I get asked a lot of Q’s by not only the runner’s I coach but by various runners I run into on a daily basis. Here are the top questions and how I respond.
Question: What kind of shoes do you recommend?
Answer: I would recommend what ever shoes works best for you. Most of the major brands all have great quality shoes, you just need to find the one that works best and feels the best for you. All of the major brands, Nike, Asics, Brooks, Adidas, New Balance, to name a few have a variety of shoes that offer a variety of different widths, support, weights, and lasts. The last is the shape of the shoe, each brand has a little different last, which can mean the difference between a shoes fitting your foot right and not. As far as the amount of support, this too is individual, generally speaking , lighter, efficient runners can get a way with less of a shoe and heavier runners need more support. Not always the case, but most of the time. it is good to have a variety of shoe types (i.e. heavier trainer, lightweight trainer, and a racing flat) to accommodate the different types of training and racing you will do. If you are a casual runner, just a general trainer will work best for you.
Question: How long should I train for a marathon?