Lessons from Elite Track and Field Runners #running

running-advice-bugAs we gear up for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the fastest American runners are preparing to take on the world’s best competitors. At this past weekend’s USA Track & Field Indoor Championships, I got a glimpse of just how good, and how very fast, some of our talented American athletes are. Here are four ways they got so fast – and how you can boost your speed, too:

1. Build muscle.

Photo: Joe English, (C) 2016

Photo: Joe English, (C) 2016

The first thing you may notice about track and field athletes is that most look extremely strong and lean. You might think this is because they have to wear those tiny bun-hugging shorts; but in reality, their strength leads to their speed. A stronger body means more power. Sprinters, for instance, grip the track with spikes in the toes of their shoes, which pulls their front legs backward. Meanwhile, their back legs push their bodies into the air, making them literally leap forward. The greater the strength in their legs and cores, the more powerful these motions become. Generating more power means they go further with each step.

Coach Joe’s get quick tip: To make your legs and core muscles stronger, incorporate strength workouts – think weighted exercises, classes like CrossFit or hill running – into your running routine one to two times each week. By augmenting your runs with exercise to make your muscles stronger, you’ll be a more powerful machine when it comes time to push harder.

2. Quicken your cadence.

When you watch runners on a track, you may immediately notice how quickly they turn over their feet. In fact, most track athletes do so at almost exactly the same rate. However, unlike the cartoon character “The Roadrunner,” these runners’ legs don’t just disappear into a blur of dusty circles. That’s because there’s a limit to how quickly we as human beings can physically turn over our feet. High-level track and field runners tend to run at that limit. Almost all of the rest of us, meanwhile, could stand to improve in this area.

Coach Joe’s get quick tip: Focus on picking up the pace of your foot turnover during one to two runs per week. In order to quicken your cadence, you’ll need to shorten your stride a little – especially at first. Count your steps in a normal-paced run and focus on boosting that number when you’re running foot turnover drills. By increasing your cadence just a bit, you’ll improve your running speed quite dramatically.
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Training — Should I be “forefoot running”?

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

A friend of mine named Dave writes in from California with the following question:

“I’ve been doing all this reading about forefoot running and how it’s supposed to be better for you for a variety of reasons. i’m thinking of slowly learning this style of what’s supposed to be “natural’ running but am wondering if you have any thoughts or words of wisdom on the matter.”

Great question Dave. The topic of running on the forefoot comes up a lot and it is often raised in the way that you ask it: “should I be running on more on my forefeet?” The answer to the question is that it depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your running. If your goal is to run faster, than the answer will most likely be yes, because forefoot running is a by-product of running faster.

The problem with this topic is that many people often hear of the concept of “getting more forward” or “running more on their forefoot” and so they try to change their running stride without changing anything else. That’s a little a kin to changing from long-distance running shoes into track spikes before you head out for your slow 20-miler. In other words, running on your forefeet is more of an end-result than a goal that one should set.
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Video — Breathing Techniques, Exercises and Aids

It’s time for Episode 3 in our weekly video series. This week Coaches Joe English and Dean Hebert continue our discussion, now moving on to breathing issues for runners.

Today we discuss:
-Breathing aids
-Inhale/exhale rates and their importance
-Breathing problems like Excerise Induced Asthma
-Side aches and side cramps

There’s much more coming. We’ve filmed over 20 episode in this series and we’ll be rolling them out each week.

To watch the video, just click the play button in the video window below.

In the next installment, coming next week, we start a two week discussion on pacing for marathon runners.

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