In an effort to try and stay injury free this season, I have undertaken a program that will hopefully toughen me up and keep me running without pain and injury.
At strengthrunning.com, I found a program that basically provides a series of dynamic flexibility and running specific strength workouts that are essentially body weight exercises. The main gist of this program, which is called “Injury Prevention For Runners” is a more efficient running form based on increasing your running cadence and shortening stride length. The belief in this, as author Jason Fitzgerald writes, is that the increased cadence provides for a proper stride and foot placement that helps to eliminate injury.
This past week of running was the first following the plan. In addition, I was also looking for an off season training plan. I found a program online by Hal Higdon that is a twelve week spring intermediate plan to basically get your legs and cardio back and prepare one to jump into a full training program. The mileage isn’t high but it does offer up a variety of runs to stress the body at different paces and speeds.
So, back to this cadence thing. Typically my cadence is around 158 to 160 steps per minute. In the past week I have been running anywhere from 167 to 176 steps per minute. But, it hasn’t been easy. It’s hard for me to get my head around the following ;
- the concept of moving my legs faster but not moving my body any faster is strange. You should know, my legs are pretty big, currently hauling around just shy of 230 lbs! so more, faster but shorter strides is a big change
- Stride length can only get so short, or both feet will be on the ground at the same time!
- Sometimes it feels like my shoes are tied together (others have said this as well)
With the increased movement of my legs, but with shorter strides, I have noticed that my cardio seems to be more stressed and I seem to be working harder despite not moving faster. From what I understand, this is common with runners adapting to this system. Depending on the individual, it may take anywhere from a few weeks to six months to get fully accustomed to this new style of running. I have had to take a couple of walking breaks to catch my breath.
My initial reaction is that I am liking the change. What I have noticed is the shorter stride requires you to not lift your knees as high in order to maintain the high leg turnover rate. The stride almost seems like it is from the knee down, more a push out of the foot than raising from the knee. Also, I find I need to work on keeping my knee to foot alignment pointed in the direction of travel which I’m sure also includes the hips being pointed in the direction I want to go. I find it also helps if your knees aren’t banging together.
When doing long, slow runs, I think it is a bit impractical to expect a runner to maintain a higher cadence. You can still shorten your stride but the cadence rate should remain lower so you get the full benefits of the long run. I’ve done 2 longer runs, one 8.7k with a cadence rate of 168 and a 10.5k with an average cadence of 158.
It will take a bit of time to get used to and adapt to this running change. It will be successful if I am able to continue running without the injuries I’ve experienced in the past.