The optimal cadence and stride length for runners

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There are many ways to reach your running goals. The optimal training with a good balance between load and recovery is one performance factor, running technique is another. Stride length and cadence are two aspects that often cause questions. So, it is high time to shed some light on these two topics.

Running faster and better – coordination helps!

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When we think about running, keywords such as endurance, speed or strength often cross our minds. But one important piece of the mosaic for efficient and successful running is often forgotten: coordination.

Coordination refers to the interaction of certain muscle groups for the optimal utilization of available forces and is geared toward a resulting maximization of performance. Thus, coordination can help runners to channel the trained muscle power correctly and to achieve the highest possible speed with the smallest possible loss of energy. With better coordination you can economize your running style. Another goal of coordination training is injury prevention. The most beautiful and dynamic movement possible during running can help to prevent overstraining.

Now, how do you actually train coordination? For runners, running form drills are particularly suitable. Running form drills is the term we use to describe exercises in which certain parts of the running movement are more or less isolated and exaggerated. The aim is again to improve the interaction of the muscle groups needed for the various movements. In the following videos, multiple orienteering World champion and one of the best female mountain and trail runners in the world, will show you how:

Ankle drill

The basic exercise for your ankles. The whole movement in the ankle is important here. The ball of the foot hardly lifts off the ground. The heel is responsible for the whole movement from bottom to top and back again. A stable upper body is important. The hip should not move sideways and the pelvis should not tilt. Also focus on arm work.

Walk like a stork

The stork walk is the perfect basic exercise for more stability, good hip extension and conscious walking. Our showcase model, multiple orienteering world champion and active runner Judith Wyder, shows this exercise in two variations: 1) flat foot and 2) on the toes.

Pogo jumps

With this exercise you train a strong kick from the calves. The whole movement mainly comes from the lower legs. The knees are as straight as possible. The tips of the toes point upwards during the flight phase and provide an active pre-tension. Keep an upright posture during the whole execution of this exercise.

Butt kicks

Being a popular running drill, this exercise promotes an active knee stroke and a longer stride length while running. Make sure that the foot is pulled under the buttocks and that the knee is slightly raised in front of you. The faster the cadence, the better the exercise.

With this exercise you can also play around a little and change the rhythm at will. You can find an example of how to do this here.

Skipping

Make sure your body’s center of gravity remains upright and that the knee or thigh reaches the horizontal. Try to stay stable in the torso and use your arms. The higher the cadence and knee height, the harder and more effective the exercise. This exercise can also be varied like the butt kickers exercise for example with several repetitions in a row on the same side.

For advanced users, the knee lift-hopper run and the heel-knee lift combination exercise are also recommended.

Pogo jumps with knee drive

This exercise is quite demanding in that it requires high concentration for the correct timing. The legs land at the same time, but the left and right leg are lifted alternately. The main work comes from the calves. This exercise can be done in a first form with only slightly bent legs (towards the skipping position). Then the height of the skipping can slowly be increased. Make sure that the ground contact is as short as possible.

Straight leg bounds

During this running form drill, we generate propulsion below the body’s center of gravity. The effort comes from the buttocks, the rear thighs and during an active running step also from the calves. Run this way over a distance of about 20 meters and then bend the legs a little more from step to step until you are in a brisk pace with high knees and a high cadence. Keep the pace up for a few seconds and make sure you have good coordination! When you hear a kind of dragging of the shoes on the ground, you’re doing it perfectly.

Jumping jacks

Again, here goes an exercise that needs a little sense of rhythm and, depending on the situation, a little bit of mobility. The height of the leg can and should be adjusted individually. The leg should only be lifted to a height where the upper body is still stable and does not bend. Also, make sure the arms do not move and that the shoulders are relaxed. At first sight this exercise may not have much to do with running, but we promise you it does!

For this exercise, we present you two variations as well. On the one hand there is a variation in which the jumping jack is moved forward and sideways (Link DE) and on the other hand there is a variation in which the arms are moved in addition to the legs (propeller).

In your running.COACH training schedule, some of these exercises will be suggested to you on predefined days and displayed in the form of training videos. That way, you are provided with both ideas and clear instructions for exercises in the fields of strength, foot gymnastics, relaxation or stretching for your training.

Those who have not yet been convinced by the arguments of an economizing of the running style and injury prevention should at the latest let themselves be persuaded by the following: It makes your running look better! When was the last time you asked yourself who this worn and slumped creature with your starting number on their chest is supposed to be on your finisher photo? Right? Told you… 😉 So, let’s go!

Have fun trying it out!

 

Composed by: Marion Aebi (Content Manager), based on inputs from Gabriel Lombriser (running coach and running.COACH product manager)

Stair climbing for runners

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Do you want to spice up your training? All you need is a staircase. With different staircase climbing variations you can train your leg strength specific to running and set a new stimulus. So, let’s go and say hello to your staircase challenge!

Benefits of stair climbing

  • You train your running-specific strength endurance.
  • Your impression (plyometrics) becomes more powerful. You will not only benefit from this when running uphill, but also on a flat surface, a space-filling step is of advantage. In addition, active footwork helps to stay injury-free.
  • It’s a very effective training and there is a new stimulus for the cardiovascular system.
  • The playful training brings variety to your winter workout and is also an ideal option concerning safety, as you can look for a lighted or even an inside staircase when it’s dark outside. Stair climbing as a training can of course also be included in summer workouts.

General tips for stair climbing:

  • Stair climbing should only be carried out when warmed up.
  • Caution in wet conditions: You might want to switch to an indoor option.
  • Stair climbing can be a good substitute for a short interval training unit.
  • Quality before quantity always applies to stair climbing, as a clean and dynamic execution is important to avoid injury.
  • During each execution, the body remains stable: Special attention applies to the torso, which should always be tightened during the training.
  • A cool down should be carried out afterwards. Nevertheless, you may feel the staircase training the next day with sore muscles, especially at the beginning.

Possible sequence of a staircase training unit

  • 10 to 15 minutes of warm up
  • Mobilize joints, 3 interval runs
  • 10 to 15 minutes of stair climbs in a row (more than one passage possible) – usually at full speed up and down. Choose your favorites of the exercise collection below (or try all of them!):
    • Skipping and coordinative climbing down the stairs (don’t forget to include a short break at the bottom of the stairs as this is intense, too)
    • Ankle jumps
    • Frequency runs sideways (both sides)
    • Squat jumps (if the downhill jumps are also included, again, take the break at the bottom of the stairs)
    • Sideway jumps
    • One-legged jumps (both legs)
  • 10 to 15 minutes of cool-down, then stretching

Collection of exercises: Stair climbing

The exercises will be shown by Judith Wyder, 5 times OL World Champion and one of the fastest runners of Switzerland.

Skipping and coordinative climbing down the stairs

In skipping, every step is done explosively, and the knee is pulled up. A good coordinative exercise is the staircase-downhill, but beware: start slowly!

Ankle jumps

The toes are actively pulled upwards, jumping off with your forefoot. The knees always point forward to ensure a good leg axis.

Frequency runs sideways

The movement is carried out at a 90° angle to the staircase. The leg frequency is high, and a coordinated arm work is key for this exercise.

Squat jumps

Squat jumps, also called frog jumps, can be varied depending on the level: Try to take 1, 2, 3 or 4 steps in one. The jumps can be dynamic or static, depending on the goal. A good leg axis is important for both. The downhill jumps should be approached carefully – Attention: We warned you about the potential of muscle soreness!

Sideway jumps

Power and coordination in one, no matter whether you exercise them statically or dynamically. This exercise is especially recommended for trail runners and cross-country skiers.

One-legged jumps

There’s more to these one-legged jumps than one might think, no matter if you take every step or jump over some of them. Also, the jumps should be carried out in an explosive way.

These videos have been kindly provided by indurance and Judith Wyder.

Author of this blog entry: Stefanie Meyer

Running Inspiration: Starting January energetically

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Most resolutions are abandoned after a while. This is why we want to give you some inspiration for the beginning of the year. We would like to present you our 10 tips to help you getting some energy for the new running year and which should improve your performance level and increase your joy of running. Because: running training involves a lot more than «just» running.

Flexibility 

It does not always look very elegant when runners stretch. Their muscles (thighs, bum) are often shortened and stretching becomes a struggle, which is why it is often avoided. Of course, this is not the right solution and it surely does not improve your flexibility.

Plan at least one fixed short stretching session after running (stretching and running) per week or do yoga regularly. You can even find inputs for stretching positions directly in our plan.

Strength training 

Of course, no runner wants to be blown up like a body builder, but strength, especially with one’s own body weight, does not do any harm. On the contrary: a stable posture reduces the risk of injury and can even make you faster.

One or two short strength sessions a week would be ideal and they can be done before or after training. You can find inputs for strength exercises directly in our plan.

Drills and ascending runs 

Even runners can work on their technique: there are countless running drills exercises, which can be done following a training. 3×3: three excercises repeated three times will do. You can finish off with three to five ascending runs (also referred to as coordination runs or hill sprints), meaning that you run a short distance (about 80-100m) either at a steadily increasing speed or at a generally higher speed, focusing escpescially on the running technique. Inputs for running drills can also be found directly in our plan.

Fascia training 

This needs some self conquest, as it is not particularly comfortable. But : Do regularly use a foam roll after training, in order to unblock the fasciae that stick together when running and in ordet to loosen your leg muscles. This will result in better performance in the end (loose legs – better performance).

Intervals 

If you want to become faster, you need to leave your comfort zone and vary the pace. Regular weekly interval trainings help to improve the speed. Bring some variation into your intervals: a training partner who runs at about the same speed can be very motivating. Intervals uphill set an additional strength stimulus, but you can also simply vary your step frequency.

Alternative Sports 

Have the courage to replace one running session a week by an alternative sport. This brings variation into your training and it sets new stimuli. For each sport our training plan offers a recommendation of how long a session should be.

Running pictures 

Capture your running moments in pictures from time to time. This will recall nice memories later on and it will show you what running actually makes possible.

Nutrition

Treat yourself with the suitable running food before and after training and don’t forget to drink enough. We will be providing you with specific inputs and recipes on this blog soon.

Contrast showering 

A simple recovery measure are contrast showers: shower your leg or even your whole body with cold and hot water alternately. This activates the blood circulation, thus recovery and the immune system. And remember: singing distracts you from the cold water.

Plan breaks and recovery 

Always remember that recovery is a part of your training just like running. Always take your time for recovery: For example, lie down for a while after a session, close your eyes and just free your mind. Include recovery measures in your training routines consciously (sauna visits, massages, specific nutrition etc.).

Don’t forget: Keep on running. We wish you a lot of interesting and beautiful running moments over the next months.

Locating Satellites: Your Pre-Run Warm-up

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Training with technology is great, a GPS watch used in collaboration with your running.COACH program provides an automatic running log, customization of your training schedule based on what you are actually doing, adjustment of your goals, and your Coach knows exactly what you are up to.

Add-in heart rate, altimeter, cadence sensor, and all the other wearable technologies available and you have quite the analysis of each workout.  But let’s think about how much time we all spend waiting for our watch to lock-on to GPS signal. On average 30 seconds to two minutes is normal even for the best of watches, that’s about two to nine hours every year of just standing around! Even if you don’t wear a watch you’re likely even more infuriated waiting for your running partner to “lock on”.

Rather than assuming the posture of waiting for your watch (we’re all good at making sure others know were not just standing in the middle of the street for nothing) this is an opportunity for an extra 2-9 hours of training for the year. Some of you may already stretch during this time, static stretching a cold muscle has actually been shown to do more damage than good- so here is a better use of your time and will actually help prevent injuries:

The Dynamic GPS Warm-up

Complete five repetition per leg of each exercise below, the goal is to warm-up and activate the muscle, not to fatigue it.

Squats

Feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward, drop hips down to no lower than knee height, eyes should be looking up to assist with keeping a flat back, come back up straight pushing pelvis forward.

Lunges

Take a large step forward, bring your foot as high as your knee, ensure alternating arm motion (just like when you run), step back also with your foot coming as high as the other knee. Note: if you have trouble stepping back you are like stepping too far out, shorten the length of the lunge. After forward lunges, do the same but stepping to the side.

Leg Extensions

Standing with a form of support (wall, car, pole, person, etc.) slowly extend a straight leg forward, out to the side, 45 degrees behind you, and straight back returning your leg to center between each one.

Add-in bonus: alternate your foot/ankle position pointing the toes in, out, up, and down during the extensions.

Leg Swings and Rotation

Not just for the elite track athlete! Still standing next to a form of support, swing one leg back-and-forth while turned 90 degrees to the fall, one hand supported against the wall and the other swinging with your leg. Next, while facing the wall with both hands against the support, swing one leg side-to-side in front of you. Finally, from same position do forward and backward knee circles similar to a hurdler.

Bonus Calf Hops

Still waiting? Hop up and down on light feet, move them out and to the side, toes alternate pointing in and out, dance like a boxer.

There, both you and your watch should be ready to go now. Be sure to link your watch account to RUNNING.COACH account.

Neff_KatyHalf16_WR_BillBaumeyerThis blog post was written by Calum Neff, canadian born running.COACH gold coach in the U.S., 2:22h marathoner and Guinness world record holder for the fastest half marathon pushing a stroller in 1:11:27. Are you interested in a personal running coach? Click here.

Running Form

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The online coaching platform at running.COACH is great for individualized training programs and for athletes that can not commit to scheduled group runs. It allows you to find your own time to run and you know the workout was made just for you based on your training progress and goals.

The coaches are available to answer your questions and give you a poke of motivation when needed but since we can’t have our eyes on you at practice its important you concentrate on running form. Here are some tips to improve form which will make you a more efficient runner and less prone to injury.

Follow the running.COACH suggested drills

On the sidebar of your training calendar you will find daily recommended exercises that compliment your training. Since most bad form and therefore injuries are the effect of week hips, a strong importance is put on increasing the strength and mobility of your hips and glutes.

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Figure 1- Training videos as part of your training package suggest exercises that will aid in running form and injury prevention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barefoot running

If you can find a safe place to take your shoes off, like a soccer/football field or infield of a track, and go for a run you will immediately have improved form. Without the cushion and elevated heal of a shoe your brain won’t let you heel strike. Completing 1-2 short runs (less than 5k) or strides (~100m gentle accelerations) barefoot after a run will improve your form for when you do wear shoes and greatly reduce risk for injury by strengthening of tendon and muscle groups you probably are not used to using. Be sure to ease into barefoot runs, starting with very short duration, as your body will need time to adjust.

Zero Drop Footwear

In addition to barefoot running you can switch to shoes with a Zero Drop, meaning there is no drop in height from your heel to your toes (most typical running shoes will have between 8-13mm of extra height under the heal which promotes harmful heal striking). Zero Drop shoes keep your feet in a natural, barefoot, running position allowing you to run more natural while still receiving the benefits of cushion and protection. Gold Coach Calum Neff is an Altra shoe sponsored athlete and attributes his long stretch of good health and performance to their Zero Drop footwear.

Increase stride rate

One of the best things you can do for your running is to increase the amount of steps you are taking each minute. Elite runners are taking between 180-200 steps every single minute while most runners will find themselves in the 140-160 range. Measure yourself by counting every time your right foot touches the ground over a 20 second period during a normal run on flat hard surface. Multiply that number by 6 to calculate your stride rate in steps per minute. Example: You count your right foot hit the ground 30 times over a 20” period, this gives you a rate of 180. If you find your rate below 180 you should make an effort to increase your stride rate on all of your runs, with a goal of increasing by 10%.

Arm Swing

In general, your arms should swing naturally back-and-forth without crossing the body, with a ~90 degree bent elbow the entire swing, your elbow should not swing any further forward then your hip unless sprinting and your relaxed hands should swing all the way back enough to touch your hips. Arms should remain compact/close to your body and swing speed and range should increase with pace.

Form Strides

When working with athletes one-on-one I always suggest three strides as part of their warm-up that concentrate on one body component at a time. The first stride we focus on staying upright and tall, nothing else. The second we concentrate on good arm swing and the final stride the focus is on fast feet, quick steps.

Gait Analysis

If you are really concerned with your form or have been battling injuries there are a few professional services that can complete 3D gait analysis with feedback on areas you can improve. Alternatively you may discuss with your Gold Coach about sending in a video, preferably filmed at a high rate (60fps or slow motion feature on iPhone).

Running light, smooth, and efficient is something you should always concentrate on. Listen to feedback from your body, like scuffing your feet. Look at the bottoms of your shoes for excessive localized wear. Watching videos, especially of the East Africans running, is not only motivational but good help for your proprioception and visualization of how you want to run.

Neff_KatyHalf16_WR_BillBaumeyerThis blog post was written by Calum Neff, canadian born running.COACH gold coach in the U.S., 2:22h marathoner and Guinness world record holder for the fastest half marathon pushing a stroller in 1:11:27. Are you interested in a personal running coach? Click here.

Do not underestimate your arms!

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Christian Belz
Christian Belz

Increased runs, barefoot running, weight exercises, running technique, stretching – the ‘running to-do list’ gets longer and longer. Before you talk to your boss about a reduction in your workload, or you start having problems with your life partner, I want to provide clarity. running.COACH’s tips will; motivate you to give your running workout a a change of pace now and again, highlight the important points of running, and ultimately bring more joy to your running.

So here’s today’s tip:

Top runners seem to fly over the asphalt. Their ease makes you, frankly, quite jealous. The winners of most races are often the ones that appear to be the most relaxed. However, if you take a close look at the majority of runners, you’ll find most have relatively big long strides and very low frequency. A closer look shows that the arms are not carried properly. We know that arm work controls the leg work, so it should become clear that we need to focus on our arms as they are our clocks!

Arms Checklist:

  • The movement should be done from the shoulder joint and not from the elbow.
  • The angle between the upper and lower arm should be less than 90 degrees.
  • The hands should be relaxed and gently closed with the thumbs pointing up and directly in front of the body.

Your running form is something that you most likely have not thought too much about, and breaking old habits is not easy. It will require much practice, yet if you recognize the flaws in your technique and are diligent about changing it, your running will improve. I’d advise to you the following exercises:

  • Concentrate on your arm work during your ‘technical’ runs (hill sprints, coordination runs, tempo runs), and practice after each running.COACH workout.
  • During every workout, build in short sequences (30-60 seconds) where you completely focus on your arm movements. For example, after 5, 15, 25, 35 minutes, and then on a track for back and forth 100 meter ‘striders’.
  • Trot weekly for 6 x 30 seconds in place in front of a mirror and observe your arm work and movement. Go through the above checklist step by step.

Technique is not everything. But without technique everything is nothing.

By Valentin Belz