Sunday, January 24, 2010

More on Running Faster

As mentioned in a previous post on running faster, I have the triathletes I coach do some form of the basic strides drill year round. As with swimming, it seems you can never devote too much time to improving your run technique. I once coached a pro triathlete who was an All-American runner in college and considered one of the fastest runners in triathlon. I still had him work on technique year round. You should too.

The downhill strides workout described in the
original running faster post is very simple. All you do is run fast for 20 seconds several times on a soft surface such as a grassy park that has a very slight decline (such as 1%). If you do not have a history of calf, Achilles or plantar fascia injuries then I'd have you substitute “uphill strides” for the downhill strides workout after a few weeks.

This session will help you develop more running force. As explained earlier, there are only two things you can do to run faster - increase your stride length or increase your cadence. What you would really like to do is both. In that previous post I described how to improve your cadence. Let's now look at how to improve stride length which is just another way of saying improve force.

Developing greater running force will make your stride longer without even trying. Combine that with the higher cadence you have been working on with downhill strides and your running is sure to improve. But it won’t happen overnight. Your aerobic system must also improve to allow you to maintain the combined higher cadence and longer stride. And the nervous system must also adapt to the changes. All of this will take some time as the aerobic and nervous systems change slowly. By the start of the Build period in a few weeks, if you’ve been diligent about both speed skills and force training, you will be running faster at the same effort as when you started Base training. You must be patient and persistent to realize the improvement. In the mean time, don't try to artificially increase your stride length while running. Let it happen naturally.

Uphill strides workouts for force are done on either a short, very steep hill or on something like the stairs you find in a football stadium or basketball arena. If you have had some Achilles, calf or plantar fascia injuries then you are better off using the stairs - if you do this workout at all. The ankle flexion is significant when running up a steep hill and puts a tremendous load on those soft tissues. For this reason I prefer stairs for this workout for most runners but they are harder to find than hills.

The uphill strides workout is simple. Warm-up well and then do three sets of three intervals up the hill or stairs. Run as hard as you can on each interval – but not so hard that your technique breaks down. If running stairs you may need to take two or even three steps with each stride depending on the width and rise of the stairs. Count 12, right-foot strikes stopping on the twelfth. Turn around and walk back down the hill or stairs. Do not run down. Jog easily for five minutes after each set.

This is a very risky workout. Be cautious with its progression. Do this no more than twice a week with at least 96 hours between them. Once a week is better for most athletes. Start with one set and add another each week for three weeks. If you have “glass legs” you would be wise not to do it at all. In that case just continue doing the downhill strides for speed skill. Not all of the athletes I coach do the uphill strides workout. I’m very conservative when it comes to risky running workouts. You must avoid injury.

Labels: , , , , ,


At January 24, 2010 7:11 AM , Blogger fabio said...

nice post as usual :D. is it more or less the same for the bike and hils/low rpm high gear workouts?

At January 24, 2010 12:30 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Fabio--See this post

At January 25, 2010 5:18 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


What are your thoughts on the Pose method or Chi running approaches to running technique?



At January 25, 2010 8:02 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Joe, thanks for the post. Two follow-up questions. 1) Is there any drawback to incorporating strides into an endurance run? For example, doing 20 sec of strides every mile in a 10 mile run? 2) If one DOES have a history of Achilles, PF, or calf problems, are there any exercises your recommend for the weight room that can be used to increase running force? Thanks. --Bruce

At January 25, 2010 8:32 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Guy--There are some small differences but they are much the same. One may work better for you than the other.

At January 25, 2010 10:03 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

anon--1) I'd recommend not doing this until much later in the base period or build period when your aerobic fitness and speed skills are both much improved. You're suggesting a more advanced workout. 2) Unfortunately, there isn't. You need to get those potential injury areas under control/stronger before doing force workouts. If I was coaching you I'd have you meet with my physical therapist to figure out why this is happening and what we could do about it. Good luck!

At January 25, 2010 3:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The information here is great. I will invite my friends here.


At January 26, 2010 7:44 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,

Thanks, but I guess I was more interested in a discussion of how these "running from the core with gravity" styles of running compares to what you are suggesting in this piece. Your recent positive comments about minimal shoes and forefoot landing seemed to be heading toward the "core" styles but this goes back hard the other way.



At January 29, 2010 4:39 PM , Blogger eChiFitness said...

Pose Method and ChiRunning are often considered similar. But the only major similarity is they both suggest a forward lean to engage the pull of gravity. Aside from this, there are major differences between the techniques. To highlight just a few:

Pose Method vs. ChiRunning
- forefoot (ball of the foot) vs. midfoot (relaxed fullfoot landing on structure of the foot)
- leg motion (ankle/knee/leg moves vertical vs. knee remains relatively low and only the ankle raises via a knee bend)
- static pelvis vs. pelvic rotation to increase stride length to the rear
- variable cadence vs. constant cadence


At February 8, 2010 12:56 PM , Anonymous Carlos said...

Hi Joe, thanks a lot for your posts and your books. Your Training Bible has been an essential tool for me to learn the basics of training and to begin to coach myself (hope your new books comes soon!).
Going to the point, I would like to "support" the question by Guy. It would be quite interesting if you could write some lines (maybe a post) about the notion "running from the core with gravity". I'm racing my first triathlon season and I began running with Pose method here in Argentina (I am a Brazilian living here) in July. My experience hasn't been that good with forefoot stride (I got the way to do that very confortably, but unfortunately had some tibial tendon problems), so I'm addapting to midfoot striking. Well, Pose runners emphasize very much the "forefoot" point, but I really think that the most interesting notion in Pose method is that of "running from the core with gravity" (sory, I haven't read mucho on Chi running), and that such un idea applies either to forefoot or midfoot striking (since a central point here is "landing with the feet under the center of mass" I doubt if it is doable with heel striking).
It would be really great if you cound write a little bit on "core/gravity" running and how it relates/interferes, for example, with stride length/cadence or diferent "standard" workouts.
Yours sincerely,
Carlos Cuenca

At February 8, 2010 5:38 PM , Blogger eChiFitness said...

Pose Method and ChiRunning both suggest a forward lean (running with gravity). Aside from an aligned posture, this is the only common trait between them.

ChiRunning suggests a midfoot (relaxed fullfoot) landing to reduce/eliminate stress on the lower leg/foot; which is where many running injuries occur.

The ChiRunning leg motion is also very different from Pose: in CR the heel floats up by allowing the knee to bend. The knee/upper leg comes forward slightly but does not rise up. In Pose, the heel is lifted (pulled) vertically to the butt and the knee/upper leg rises with it.

Blog post with diagram:

Hope this helps. ChiRunning website:


At February 10, 2010 8:20 AM , Anonymous Carlos said...

Hi David, thanks a lot for your comments on Chi Running, which really helped a lot. A question is whether "gravity running" puts traditional assumptions on the importance of force in running in a different perspective or not. I've the sensation that, if one tries to think in a non-dogmatic way (Dr. Romanov seems to be quite strict..) the "core" of both Pose and Chi running are more the thing of "running with gravity" instead of fighting it than the choice between mid or frontfoot strikes, and I think the way this notion might interfere in running and workouts deserves some thoughts. For example, my ex-Pose coach here in Argentina told me once that "hill training is just useless in Pose method". Well, I think such an aseverance is quite exagerated and dogmatic, but anyway it would be interesting to think about how "gravity running" the design of workouts.


Post a Comment

<< Home