America’s running boom is real, attracting runners of all ages. In fact, the National Sporting Goods Association reports* that almost 50 million Americans jog or run each year. It’s a great way to improve fitness, requiring no more special equipment than headphones and a good pair of shoes. As popular as running is, running-related injuries aren’t far behind; it’s estimated that 50 percent of regular runners experience one or more injuries every year. Some of the most prevalent problems include stress fractures, tendon injuries, IT band syndrome and the ubiquitous runner’s knee.
As an avid runner myself, I have dedicated myself personally to becoming a marathon finisher and, professionally, as a specialist in running medicine. Here are my top tips for improving your performance and staying healthy.
Boost Your Running Cadence.
The right cadence is crucial for improving your form, reducing injuries and increasing your results. The most successful runners use a cadence of approximately 180 footstrikes per minute. The slower your cadence, the more time you spend in the air, and the harder your foot lands. These increased forces take their toll on your body, slowing you down and increasing the odds of injury. Use a metronome app on your smart phone or run to 180 bpm music. Even switching to lighter shoes can help. When you achieve a consistent cadence of 180 or more, your body will thank you.
Use Interval Training to Improve Performance.
When you run at a slow pace (especially if your cadence is also slow), good form is extremely difficult to achieve. Increasing your speed not only helps your form but also reduces the negative effects of vertical motion and decelerating force on your body. Interval training is the perfect way to improve your pace. Interval training involves bursts of intense effort followed by a recovery period. Try a 4:1 interval ratio by running for four minutes, followed by one minute of walking. Repeat these intervals for your entire run, pushing hard during the running phase and using the walking period to catch your breath. If you stick diligently to this ratio, you’ll discover that your pace has increased, even with the periods of walking. I have even used this exact ratio to successfully complete an entire half marathon!
It takes the body several weeks to adapt to a new running style, so take it easy and don’t push too hard. Your patience will pay off with fewer injuries, better times and greater enjoyment. Happy running!