Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Secret to Running Faster

I'd like to run faster. There are two things in particular that I plan on doing to achieve this seemingly simple goal. The first is to do regular "running drills". By 'regular', I mean at least once per week. I've done these haphazardly in the past, often joining in with the kids who train at Calwell. The drills that I'll do will include those demonstrated in this video on the Running Times website.

Why this new enthusiasm for drills? I think it was Rick who pointed out a podcast by Peter Magill where he lucidly explains the importance of drills for older runners. Pete mentions studies that show runners do a great job of retaining their stride frequency into old age. An 80-year-old runner can run the same number of strides per minute that they ran with at age 30. What they can't do is run with the same stride length. Pete says, "that by not doing things to maintain your stride length you're just getting slower."

This loss of stride length is a particular problem for long distance runners — especially those who never do speedwork or shorter races. It's pretty obvious that my stride has become shorter over the years. How short? About 25 centimetres (9.84 inches) shorter for each stride during a 3k race! If I could regain just a fraction of that stride length I might be able to run an age-50 PB for the 3000.

The other thing I plan on doing is to get the Goldilocks training happening. Joe Garland talked about this in a recent blog post about Charlie Spedding. Goldilocks training is running a workout not too hard, not too easy, but just right. Apparently this is the effort that Kenyan runners fall into naturally during their workouts. Marius Bakken took lactate measurements from Kenyan runners and discovered they always run at around anaerobic threshold. This intensity is from 87 to 88% of maximum heart-rate, with variations from 80 to 88%.

So, that's the plan. My next big thing is a 10,000 metre track race on November 12. A time of 44:54 or quicker is what I'd like to run — that would be an M50 PB. Is there time to perfect my new longer stride?


Runner Susan said...

You always have really good plans. I need to get my act together and get a good plan. When I was doing yoga AND running for a brief period of time, YEARS ago, I had a great stride. Although, I didn't care much about my pace at the time, just burning calories. It stinks being zen-like.

There is always time. Like I tell Kenza, if you don't know - you can and will before the test. We'll just pretend muscles work the same way.

speedygeoff said...

A good plan. I have a similar plan. Action is required.

Unknown said...

I just found those podcasts from Running Times on drills and training and they are great! I'm already incorporating them into my training.


Peter Magill gave me this amazingly goog advise about training and why my running has gone pear shaped this summer;
3 hard workouts a week is absolutely insane for someone our age (I'm 48 too). I wouldn't last a month doing that. And I doubt you'd see any improvement, even in the first weeks. One hard workout, one long easy-paced run, and one less-hard workout combined with as much volume as your legs can comfortably handle is the best plan for our age. Also, we don't respond well to the excessively long tempo or the tempo runs tagged onto the end (or in the middle of) our long runs the way some younger athletes do.

One of my masters athletes who I'm currently training for the marathon called me before his half-marthon 2 weeks ago. He was panicked because his friends told him I hadn't been training him hard enough - not enough distance and not enough long tempo, etc. I calmed him down. And he ended up running his half-marathon PR ... by 11 minutes.

Be smart. Be sensible.


i LOOKED THROUGH MY TRAINING LOGS AND WHAT DO I SEE! every time I've been running well my training matches what Peter recommends, every time my running has gone downhill I've been running 3 hard sessions per week!
I think I've seen the light!
p.s. stick with the drills and in a couple of weeks you should seen a difference.


Try and get a freind to video you on the track, say at your 3k pace over a lap, do the drills for a couple of weeks and then take a new video, the comparisons of the 'before and after' would be very interesting!

Girl In Motion said...

Great idea with the drills. I confess to being gun-shy myself because drills ended up being the last straw on my heel bursitis' back last year, bounding doesn't seem to agree with it. Would like to try again though. Looking forward to your progress report on it.

Samurai Running said...

Yes, again good thoughts Ewen

I saw an old b&w photo of Ed Whitlock the other day on Pete Magill's blog and noticed srtaight away that his running form had changed little from then to now.

Another old guy that can still run fast is Earl Fee. In his book "The complete Guide to running...." (Have you bought it?) he devotes chapters to how to increase/maintain stride length.

I also want to start doing some drills but I'm still in the process of looking for a drill partner as sexy as "Gracie" to do them with...

In the while, I'm doing the short hill repeats also recommended by PM, and according to him you will see instant improvements in stride length and race pace after doing them.

Love2Run said...

Rick is really on the right track with his comments. At 'our' age one hard workout a week is plenty and you can throw in those 'stridy' thingies once in awhile too.

ps. I also want to and plan to be faster next year and will be watching you closely!

Ali said...

I want to get faster too ... maybe I'll use your plan.

Hey ... I coined the term goldilocks :) that's my word. I'll let him use it this time.

IHateToast said...

wasn't she breaking and entering? add porridge theft. goldilocks also left the dishes out.

but i get your message, little blonde girl.

CLINKY said...

Are you really going to run at tempo pace on all your runs?

rinusrunning said...

Drills like in the army ;-).
I think that you can do it and run a fast time on the 10km!.
Wy you not try to run a marathon?.
Nice blog this time too see and read.


I would take that thing about Kenyan runners training at AT pace all the time with a pinch of salt!
Maybe when there at a intensive training camp, but I doubt all the time and remember your not a lean mean 25 year old running machine any more, the training at that level will leave you buggered after about 4 days!!!
chech out this link

trailblazer777 said...

Nic B. (mottrams ex-coach) talked about some 4x120m stuff they do, which sounds to me like maybe working on faster speed, better running technique...dont go too far on the stride length pursuit though as faster cadence might be good too...e.g. michael johnson former world record holder for 200m and 400m, had an incredibly fast legspeed cadence...

overstriding is something the younger runner should beware for sure...injury danger...

as usual always some very interesting things to think about after reading your post.

Just thinking about the Kenyans running at 80-88% of Max Heart rate...
I think my max would be 201 so maybe I should be trying to keep my reps in the 160-180 bpm zone, and back off the intensity a little, avoid the 186-195 type heart rates...not sure...

I'd recommend a mix of 1k reps, (as fast as possible) and some 1600 reps or 2k reps to improve the 10k time. Run the longer ones at your goal pace, or maybe about 1-2 minutes faster than your goal pace, so about 4.15 per k pace... 1:1 recovery. With that, the shorter drills, and a long run it should work, if the ACTION is done.
I'm hoping to do something similiar if I can get out there.

Hope the plans come to fruition and the sub 45min, and m50 PB is given a good shake in the 10k race coming up!

trailblazer777 said...

hill repeats and video analysis before and after sound like cool ideas too...

Anonymous said...

Ewen, I agree that increasing stride length is crucial, and that drills are likley to be especially useful for older runners (well at least I can claim to be an 'older' runner, but I suppose you almost qualify for that description as well). In addtion, I think that brief alactic sprints are a good way to develop the required neural coordination without being too exhausting, and short hills are good for developing the aerobic capacity of type 2A fibres.
Good luck with the sub 45 min 10K

Ewen said...

Hi all. A few replies, g'days etc...

Susan, you have a great stride in those sprinting videos - I wish mine were half as good!

Speedygeoff, action has been commenced - two sessions of drills already :)

Chad, great to see you back running again - good luck with the drills!

Rick, thanks - that's good advice from Pete Magill. I definitely won't (couldn't) do 3 hard sessions a week. I might do the video thing if I can persuade "Gracie" to hold the camera.

Flo, some of the low impact drills such as "high knee marching", "stationary leg circles" and "walking lunges" could be a good way to bring them in gradually. Progress report promised!

Scott, thanks. I haven't bought Earl's book but it's on the list. He has a magnificent stride. I've also started the short hill sprints.

Mike, I agree about one hard workout per week at 'our' age. Also with you on the strides, which I plan on doing as part of a drills session.

Ali, you can have credit for Goldilocks, and IHateToast can rewrite the fairytale.

CLINKY, no I'm not! I'll use that effort level on my hard workout though.

Rinus, I'll try a marathon when you show me how to run 3:20 :)

Rick, thanks for the link. 15k in an hour would be easy for a Kenyan. To me, 'Goldilocks training' is getting all sessions 'just right' - both the few harder ones, the easy ones, and the overall training.

TB, good points. I definitely think the short (near max speed) sprints would be worthwhile. Not so sure about the max speed 1k reps as they would be guaranteed to push the heart-rate beyond 'Goldilocks level'. Will be doing some goal pace or slightly quicker reps though.

Canute, thanks. I'd like to be running as well as you when I'm slightly older again. Thanks for the advice on the alactic sprints and short hills. I plan to do those - perfect for summer on the grass track!

Anonymous said...

wannabecoach said:

Looks like I have been gazumped, usurped or just dumped as Ewen's coach. I can see a limerick developing here.

I still have all of the answers. Ewen just has to come up with the right questions.

Ewen said...

Wannabecoach, I should have followed your advice to keep trying different sports until I found one where I didn't suck! Lawn Bowls might have been the one ;)

I'll keep asking questions. One of them has to be the right one!


Ewen to answer the question you left on my blog; yes going by Pete's training guide you would only do one hard session during a race week.

Anonymous said...

wannabecoach said:

Perhaps I could coach you at lawn bowls. I know a lot about the game.

My PB is 267....I got 8 strikes in a row.


Trade Secrets of the Kenyans
Simple strategies to train like the world's best runners.

jen said...

Great idea on the drills. I hope it works for you!

I always thought that you had to either be running "Hard" or "Easy" and that running paces in the middle ('medium hard') was a waste. Of course, I do a lot of my runs at that medium hard pace anyway, but I thought I was doing it wrong. Now I know I am doing it like the Kenyans! Well, I should probably read more about it but I think I like this theory.

Good luck with the training! :)

Robert Song said...

Maybe if you shaved off your beard and hair, it could make all the difference to your performance ;-) You seemed to have tried every other plan going around.

I must admit it is a lot cooler.

Without the hair everyone keeps telling me how young I look. Pity I am feeling so old on the inside.

When or should that be if , the hair comes back I can't see me not going with the beard again. Too lazy to shave each day.

Sling Runner said...

Thanks for the video. Will try to implement one drill session as per that video at least once a week.