With powerful strides

With powerful strides

A few weeks ago we wrote that you can run faster by either increasing your stride length or increasing your cadence. Energetically, increasing your cadence is the most advantageous. We showed that with a graph. This generated a lot of comments from readers!

Indeed, you should also look at the foot landing. Heel landers slow down a little with every stride. Landing on your midsole or forefoot is better. If you never run faster than 10 km/h, you can easily use a cadence of 160 strides per minute. The long-distance runner who runs the 60K at 13-14 km/h with a cadence of 160 is not a bad runner, but can definitely improve himself by increasing his cadence and running more reactively. And the reader who already runs at 180 strides per minute but does so with strides of no more than 0.90 meters will certainly benefit from working on his stride length first.

So you would do well to look at all aspects of your running style. You then start with the aspect where the most profit can be made. To improve your cadence, we gave you the tip to use the metronome of your sports watch or to purchase a digital metronome for a limited fee that you can attach to your waistband.

To increase your stride length, you need to get stronger. This can be achieved with hill training.

Hill training

Not everyone lives like Hans and Ron at the foot of the Utrecht Hill Ridge and has long hills within running distance. Alternatively, you can take a long driveway (viaduct) of an overpass or bridge. To get stronger leg muscles, include workouts in your running schedule where you take a long hill or driveway a few times.

There is no need to run into this at race pace all the time. A firm pace already gives enough training incentive. Heel landers have another advantage. They are more or less forced to run on the slope with a metatarsal landing which improves reactivity. You will also automatically increase your stride frequency uphill, which in turn is good for habituation to a higher cadence.

With hill training you especially strengthen your calf muscles. A warning is that you should not get ahead of yourself. If you’ve taken the hill five times and it turns out to be going well, it may be tempting to do this a few more times. Here lies a risk of overloading leg muscles, tendons and knees. You would therefore be wise to be cautious.

Running downhill also makes your legs stronger, especially your thigh muscles. However, also be cautious with this to prevent injuries.

If you don’t have long hills within running distance, you can also use the driveway of an overpass or bridge.

How much extra power does a slope cost you?

That running uphill requires more power if you keep up the same pace, we don’t have to explain to anyone. In our book ‘The Secret of Running’  we have shown that this depends on the inclination of the hill. The steeper it gets, the harder you have to work.

To illustrate this, we have included the table below. Compare the extra power required for the Marathon Man, the example figure from our books that weighs 70 kg and runs the marathon in 3:30.  The Functional Threshold Power (FTP) of Marathon Man is 3.67 Watts/kg.  So he can maintain 3.67 Watts/kg * 70 kg = 255 Watts during one hour.

The table indicates how much extra power is required depending on the slope of the hill. We also show that for someone who is 10 kg lighter (60 kg) or 10 kg heavier (80 kg).

In an earlier article at ProRun we showed how you can easily calculate this for yourself. For convenience, in this article we neglected the air resistance (including wind) and also disregarded the effect of any less efficient running style. This was because we wanted to give an impression of the impact of a hill.

We gave this example: Marathon Man (and everyone else) gets the best out of himself in the race when he or she runs with a constant power. 229 Watts and 12 km/h (pace 5:00 km/h) on the flat means that it goes uphill at 3.2% in 10.2 km/h (pace 5:53/km) and downhill at 13.8 km/h (pace 4:21/km).

Our book ‘The Secret of Running’ is for sale in our webshop. Also available in German as ‘Das Geheimnis des Laufens’, and in Italian as ‘Manuale completo della corsa’.