If you want to instantly change and even improve your running style increase the number of steps you take per minute, a.k.a. your stride rate That said, it sounds easy to do but there’s two things stopping runners from becoming successful at it. The first is that stride rate is the result of an innate internal rhythm. You’re born with it. I’ve seen people running for the very first time with an abnormally high stride rate while there are thousands, maybe millions of athletes with miles in their training diaries that advance at such a slow pace they risk injury with every step.
Articles cyclically make the rounds through running websites on how to improve stride rate. The author always take the example of a “real” athlete that runs with a mythical stride rate of 180 steps per minute and invites everyone to do the same in order to run like the pros. That’s not exactly how it works. First of all, stride rate changes with distances. Secondly, stride rate varies wildly from person to person, even among elite athletes.
In my experience most amateur runners have an average stride rate of around 170 steps per minute. Anything running below this number is going to put too much stress and strain on their quadriceps and knees along with wasting precious energy. It’s not easy to increase your natural stride rate but everyone can work on it, you just need patience and consistency in your training.
Here’s what you can do right away:
- First, find out where you’re starting from, how many steps per minute you take. While running at a slow warm up pace count how many steps you take in ten seconds time. Do it a few times so you get the average, then multiply that number by six. If you happen to have a stride rate somewhere around 180 you can thank your genetics and run happily ever after. If your stride rate is 170 or less then you’ll definitely feel and see immediate improvements by increasing your stride rate. Read on!
- Buy a small metronome (http://amzn.to/2q5h8cd) or download a metronome APP on your smartphone. There are several free versions or by adding a few dollars/euro you can have them without the publicity. I’ve used both GISMART metronome and Tempo Lite ; download and use instantly.
- Increase your stride by only five steps. Example: if you’ve counted your stride rate at 160 steps per minute set the metronome for 165. After a brief warm up activate your metronome and follow the rhythm for one minute. Remember, just one minute! Take a few minutes off running normally and then try it again. It might take some practice but you’ll get it after a few tries.
- Get ready for it to feel strange and different. It seems crazy that five more steps in a minute’s time would make such a difference. You’ll have to shorten your stride and your heart rate will mostly likely increase in that minute because you’re running faster. Recover with easy running until you feel like you have your breathing under control and then when you’re ready, try it again. It will take some time to get used to and you’ll have to practice this, well, forever. But if you get into the right rhythm you will see improvement in your running style and times.