Most people who start to run are working on building their endurance to be able to pack on the mileage. There is often little though about running faster until you have been running for a while however, eventually, most runners think about not only completing the run, but the speed at which they wish to complete it. If you are a competitive runner, this is even more important to you, since you work quite hard at increasing endurance and speed, which is often harder than it sounds.
By changing your approach to speed and improving your efficiency, you can run faster at the same level of effort, and feel better after you run too.
Simply explained, running is the transference of energy from the ground through your upper body. The more efficiently this energy is transferred to the ground, and the more symmetrically you transfer that force, the faster you can go.
With this in mind, if you are built asymmetrically, you are likely using your body inefficiently, even if your running speed is quick. I have had many higher end runners brag about their times, and then mumble about their collective injuries. When we place these same runners on the treadmill and use our phone to video the run, you can see the problems and watch it over and over. When we make changes to our running style, using some of the different techniques I am going to mention, you can have a friend do a follow-up video and you will see differences, as well as see your form improve. Since function and form are both important to run more efficiently, by using the following suggestions, you will see your heart rate drop because you are now using less energy to run, which will enable you to run faster at the same level of training.
Three things you can do now
1. Relax your shoulders and keep your arms at less than 90 degrees. Perhaps you believe your arms are relaxed. You will also change those beliefs once you phone video your run on a treadmill. If your arms are crossing your abdomen as you run, you are putting on the brakes, not unlike doing so on your automobile. If your shoulders are being held stiff, relax them. On video, as soon as you allow your shoulders to relax, your stride will open up improving your running efficiency. If you are having problems doing this, your hip flexors are likely tight and you may benefit from visiting a good sports chiropractor or massage therapist who can loosen them up. Foam rollers are also helpful. The book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain (on Amazon.com, BN.com and many other booksellers) can be a terrific guide to understanding why you are tight and be helpful in finding the right people to help you.
2. Try out a good set of off the shelf foot orthotics. Most running stores carry brands like superfeet, Spenco and there are other brands you can try out with your new running shoes. The effect will be marked if you are built asymmetrically. Since people who are asymmetrically built will tend to over stride on one side and under stride on the other, which will shorten their stride and waste valuable energy as you run, a good off the shelf insert can improve your running times and improve the way you feel when you run.
3. Use foam rollers to loosen your leg, back and hip muscles before you run. This is a much more effective than trying to stretch. Foam rollers are a crude method of performing myofascial release. Current research by T. Myers suggests that the fascia which covers the muscles and not the muscles themselves are responsible for movement and the coordination of movement. By using foam rollers to improve the flexibility of the fascia surrounding the muscles, the better your form and the better your function will be during your run. Many runners are familiar with a product called the stick, however, foam rollers affect a larger amount of surface area and as a result, can be more effective as a part of your pre run warm-up routine.
The advice offered in this article is based on years of professional work with runners of all ages. Dr. William Charschan is the current medical director of USATFNJ. See more at Diary of a NJ Chiropractor at www.backfixer1.com. Dr. Charschan is also the author of Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to beat chronic pain. Stay tuned for his soon to be release book for runners and preventing running injuries.