Friday, 10 July 2015

How to run faster as we age

Posted by speedygeoff on Friday, July 10, 2015 with 3 comments
Mathematics will tell you that we can run faster by turning our legs over more quickly, and by increasing our stride length at the same time

Of course it’s not as simple as that; a host of physiological and psychological factors come into play as well; it takes many training sessions to condition our heart, lungs, muscles, and mind, to sustain a faster pace, to overcome fatigue and to tolerate, even welcome, good pain.

Let’s see how easy it might be to run faster if we address these two issues alone; cadence, and stride.

Running with a quick cadence is easy. We can get our legs moving at 180 to 200 steps per minute if we count “1, 2, 3” every second. We have to work on sustaining it; conditioning takes time. But if our cadence is slower than 180, we can run faster times right now with that simple adjustment to our running technique.

What often accompanies a quicker cadence, however, is a shorter stride. So while for a long time I have been encouraging my training group members to pick up the tempo of their running, it is time to consider what can be done about maintaining a good stride length, if not increasing it.

Another issue for us older runners is the effect of ageing. Stride rate changes little as we age. But stride length drops off significantly; extremely so. What can we do about it?

Without going into a detailed explanation, here are some recommendations we should all adopt if we want to do something about stride length.

• Weight training for the legs is essential; we must strengthen ankles, calves, quads, hip flexors and glutes.
• Squats and lunges can be practiced daily.
• Two or three sessions in the gym each week is ideal.
• Good exercises for strengthening glutes, for example, can be found on the internet.
• It is essential to develop a good warm-up routine, used before every run.
• Flexibility around the hips is improved by doing leg swinging exercises.
• The larger muscles should be stretched each day.
• It is a good idea to schedule some drills as part of a training program
• Stretch stretch stretch!
• Train for fast arms. Arms drive the legs.
• Train for fast legs. Don’t let the feet linger on the ground when you run.
• Light shoes help fast legs.
• A regular hill sprint session is recommended.
• Fast downhill running is helpful too.
I have had a terribly short stride in recent years. I am hoping I can correct that in years to come. I am hoping you are the same. Currently I am doing five gym circuits each week; two of them are intense. I haven’t started downhill training yet; I am waiting for my ankles to get stronger and my balance to improve. Improvement is happening; slowly but surely. Stretching is a bit hit and miss, but I do some stretching and mobility work before every run and in the gym every time I am there. In 2018 I will turn 70; yoicks! In 2018 I am planning to be running better than I am now. And that will only happen if I can increase stride length.