Increasing Intensity of Speed
Knowing how to run long distance faster is a confusing part of any running regimen. The simple fact is that right incremental increases are going to be specific to the individual. In order for you to understand your own scale for advancement, you need to compare your charted progress against your goals.
Since you began running, you have been keeping a log of your distances, times and other pertinent facts. Checking your progress ensures you’re on track to reach your goals.
When comparing your stats you will see a definite pattern of progress reoccurring after a few months. That progress will give you the ability to predict where and when to make your next increase to your speed and distance. Slowly increasing your speed and distance over the course of weeks helps you of avoid injury and burnout.
As you advance in your running capabilities, running form becomes more critical to your good health and performance. Form is the personalized body position one assumes during running. Since running is a natural action, most people naturally have a running style that they feel comfortable with.
However, there are a few key components that should be pointed out in order to improve your form. The most important element in good form for long distance running is to ensure that your body is as relaxed as possible.
You want to strive to purge all tension from your body with the exception of your legs. Tensing your body causes unnecessary muscle fatigue and decreased performance. A well relaxed body handles terrain changes better and allows you to run farther.
Good Running Form
First you want to make sure your hands are not balled into fists. By relaxing the hands to a naturally opened position with fingers slightly curved in, you allow the muscles in the arms to gracefully support the weight of the hands. This in turn keeps you from drawing unnecessary energy away from the legs. With the hands in a relaxed state, the wrists should follow.
The wrist’s natural resting position is centered with a slight curve toward the ground. If you feel more comfortable running with your palms facing the ground then your hands will still be most relaxed when they point in a slightly downward angle.
This is not a position requiring intended muscle direction because it should be caused by the natural effects of gravity on the hands and wrists. This is one of the best way to run.
The most comfortable resting hand position during running is similar to a handshake position. You want the palms perpendicular to the ground allowing your hands to slowly rock at the wrist. Do not worry about the uncontrolled movement that occurs for the wrists and hands while running. The gentle natural motion is not enough to create injury in the joint, but it helps to keep the tension out of the arms.
Watch Those Arms
Incorrect positioning of the arms is a common problem. Many runners gather their arms toward their chest while running. As a runner’s fatigue increases, they tend to pull their arms in tighter and closer to their center line.
The thinking here is that with less movement, the arms are able to relax and conserve energy. This type of arm positioning is actually counterproductive. The position of the arms has a direct correlation to one’s ability to maximize their lung capacity.
As you run, you want to focus on keeping your elbows at a 90 to 120 degree angle. Allow the arms to hang on the sides of the body at the approximate level of your waste. Bringing your arms up passed 90 degree not only activates the biceps, drawing energy away from the body, but it also activates the chest muscles.
Your chest muscles constrict your lungs if your arms are brought up toward your center line. Some runners even cross the center line of their body with their arms. This not only constricts the lungs but also fatigues the shoulders unnecessarily. Keep the arms at 90 degrees, parallel alongside the body. In turn this ensures that the lungs are not constricted and the arms are consuming minimal energy from the body’s limited supply.
.A 90 degree bend in the elbow continuously varies the level of the hands as your arms naturally alternate to counterweight the motion of your legs. Subsequently, this helps prevent swelling in the hands. Blood pools in the hands if they are kept too low, but this is easily remedied by holding your hands above your heart. Also alternate squeezing and relaxing them into fists for 30 seconds.
It is important to maintain an upright posture while running long distances. Your hips, shoulders and head should form a straight line to ensure a tension free upper body. When first extending the distance of your running, you will notice that as you tire your form deteriorates.
This is a natural tendency but one that you should make a conscious effort to prevent. Not only will the arms begin to pull closer to the body center line, but the head begins to droop and the shoulders roll forward.
The muscles that hold the position of good running form are the same muscles that hold the position of good posture. If you naturally slouch or slump in chairs then you will notice some soreness and stiffness in your shoulders from trying to maintain correct posture while running.
In the beginning, the muscles will create tension because they are unaccustomed to holding this position. But keep with it because it’s the best way to run to prevent fatigue. Once the shoulders are trained to stay back they will keep the neck straight and the head high. Keeping your shoulders back also keeps your spine in better alignment, which prevents placing stress on any vertebrae while running.
Proper posture improves your ability to run. Surprisingly, the positioning and relaxed state of the upper body has an exponential benefit on the endurance of the legs. This is partially due to the fact that the upper body isn’t draining energy so the legs have more juice for the run. It is also partially a psychological effect because less of the body feels tired thus the brain is more likely to respond positively to the continued motion of the legs.
The last key to perfect upper body running form is to keep the head from bouncing. There is a ligament that runs from the ridge at the base of your skull to the base of your neck. Looking for best way the best way to run is important. This ligament is unique to animals designed to run. It is solely intended to help stabilize the head while enduring the jarring movement.
The ligament is used for directional guidance, so it takes the other muscles of the neck and a conscious effort to keep the head from bouncing. Your head should remain upright, centered and still while running. Some even suggest running with your head slightly tilted backward to ensure your breathing is unfettered.
Barefoot Or Not
Barefoot running has gained popularity due to books like “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall. They say this is the best way to run especially if your going for speed. There is definitely great benefit to barefoot running because of its ability to return a runner to their natural default settings.
But you can seriously injure yourself if you have been wearing shoes for most of your life and suddenly decide to run barefoot. It is possible to adopt some of the beneficial stride patterns exhibited by barefoot runners in order to tap into their unique benefits without having to completely cast off shoes.
Take It In Stride
The simplest philosophy to follow for optimal stride is to focus on a shorter stride with faster steps. This in turn exerts less energy and creates greater endurance.
To explain what that looks like, just imagine that your leg never extends forward past the point where you can comfortably touch the ground with your mid-foot as you land each step.
A longer forward reaching stride seems to have advantages, but ultimately it increases stress on the joints in the leg. This requires more energy to maintain traction at first impact with the ground. It’s better if your stride doesn’t extend pass your hips and you push the leg toward a rear full extension.
By doing this you are maximizing the use of gravity to efficiently run. Your hips and ankles stay in vertical alignment when running in this stride pattern. It also keeps your knees over your toes at the point of contact with the ground.
Subsequently allowing the calves and thighs to absorb the shock of the impact. Try to point your toes forward at all times because slight deviations inward or outward causes serious instability issues.
Minimize The Risk
The difference between running and walking, according to the Olympics’ officiating committee, is that one foot remains in constant contact with the ground during walking. When running, brief amounts of time are spent hovering above the ground, like a series of tiny jumps. Consider that the average runner makes 100 to 180 steps per minute.
It makes sense why a misalignment in the feet or legs puts you at a higher risk for injury. Running with a shorter stride may seem awkward at first, but it is guaranteed to lower your risk for injury while optimizing your overall energy consumption.
Remember that the upper body must be relaxed. Your arms should hang by your side with hands open and elbows at 90 degrees. Performance is best when you are in the most natural of running positions.
Don’t Forget To Breathe
Keep your shoulders back to open the chest while the head is centered and upright. There are a number of breathing techniques but must important remember to breathe. Many have their unique best way to run. While that may seem like common sense, but often runners unintentionally hold their breath.
Try to takes deep breaths while imaging the oxygen flooding your muscles. Breath through your nose and out your mouth. This helps for quicker recovery.
However do what feels natural to ensure you are taking in the largest breathes you can. Avoid taking short rapid breaths because this can lead to dizziness and possibly hyperventilation.
Run tall-and-proud while you revel in the feeling of your body’s efficiency. It is more important to be strong and steady than to be fast. Having good form will allow you to run harder and farther while keeping you injury free.