In Part 1 I explained that your Running Speed (RS) is a function of your Stride Frequency (SF) and the Stride Length (SL). In Part II, I will explain how you can increase your stride frequency and improve your running speed.
If you want to increase your RS (and who doesn’t) you can either increase your SF, increase your SL, or try to do some combination of both. I usually recommend trying to focus on one thing at the time, such as trying to work on your SF only, versus trying to improve both at the same time.
In order to increase your SF you first need to know what your stride frequency currently is (in my previous article I explained how to measure your SF, https://smartstrengthandconditioning.com/2015/12/26/increase-your-running-speed-part-1/). Once you know what your SF is, then you have to apply the Overload Principle (OP). The OP states that greater than normal stress or load is required in order to achieve an optimal training adaptation (in this case increasing your SF). This means you need to somehow run faster than you really can. “How do I do that,” you may ask? Is it even possible to run faster than you really can?
There are at least 4 strategies we can implement in order to accomplish that:
1) Running with assistance (pulling)
2) Running with assistance (pushing)
3) Running on a decline (Downhill running) 4) Running on a specialized treadmill (Harness treadmill and/or Alter -G treadmills)
The first strategy (Pulling Assistance) is not very feasible and I would not recommend it since it can be somewhat dangerous, but, it does work. It requires that you have a training partner who can ride a bicycle with you being attached to it. The partner would ride the bicycle slightly faster than you can run; therefore FORCING you to run faster than you can. You can see where this could be an accident waiting to happen and why I would not recommend it.
The second strategy (Pushing Assistance) requires some type of force to be pushing you; thus helping you to run faster than you can. The most used force is a very strong tail wind. Now, I would not recommend you go out running during some dangerous hurricane or tornado, but. if you can catch a strong tail wind you may want to take advantage of it.
The third strategy (Downhill Running) is the most used since it is very safe, it is easy to find a decline surface, and does not require any equipment. You can practice this on a road which is on a slight decine (about 1-4 % decline). After a good warm up, run down the road at a comfortable speed (to start) and increase to full speed (once you get use to it) for 30-40 sec, recover at the bottom, slowly come back up (do not push your pace up the hill – this is not hill training), and repeat a few times.
The fourth strategy requires using specialized equipment (harness treadmills, Alter-G treadmills) which allows you to safely run at speeds faster than you normally can handle. Now, most of us do not have a regular access to these treadmills, therefore this strategy is hard to utilize. However, some physical therapy places, hospitals and clinics are carrying these special tools and they are renting them to professional and recreational runners looking to improve their fitness. Find out if there are any of these facilities in your area which rent these specialized treadmills and try to take advantage of it.
In the beginning, when you first train to increase your stride frequency, it will feel very weird, uncomfortable and very off balanced. My recommendation is to start by running at lower speeds first and get use to it before increasing your speed and running all out.
Try to implement some of these strategies (2nd, 3rd, and 4th) at least 1-2 times per week for about 4-6 weeks and see if you have made any progress (increase SF) by measuring it the same way as explained in Part 1.
Stay tuned for part 3.