Run: Keys to Speed

Stride Length/Stride Rate
In a simplistic view, to improve speed you need to increase stride length and/or stride rate. Many athletes and coaches initially concentrate on improving stride length only to find that both stride rate and speed decrease. It is perhaps more effective to work on stride rate because this increases the power in the leg muscles which in turn naturally increase stride length.

Stride Length and Rate
Exercise physiologist Jack Daniels, PhD monitored the stride rate and stride lengths of the athletes in the 1984 Olympic track and field competitions. It was found that competitors in the shorter distances had longer stride lengths. In contrast the stride rate did not vary significantly. Stride rates for all events fell between 185 and 200 steps per minute.

How to improve Stride Rate
The easiest way to to determine your strike rate is to count the number of times your right foot lands during one minute of running. Repeat the one minute runs at different speeds from an easy jog to interval speed. If you are like an elite athlete you will find that your stride rate is 90 or more per minute (180 steps) and is similar for various speeds. If your stride rate is less than 90 then make a conscious effort to increase the stride rate. To do this, concentrate on quicker, lighter, relaxed steps, but do not change the way your feet strike the ground.

Distance runners need to maintain strike rate when running up hills by adjusting the stride length. If you let strike rate slow down you will find that fatigue sets in and it is harder to get back to the desired strike rate once you are over the crest of the hill.

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