Our Barefoot Beginner facebook group now has over 300 members. It is a great place to keep up to date with all things barefoot/minimalist related. The chat is warm and friendly. You will be made very welcome. Join here.
We also have a facebook page for you to like (I usually post things here first) and you can follow us in twitter.
So you’ve mastered a decent 180 cadence, you’re running tall and relaxed and you’re putting in consistent mileage… what comes next?
Runners usually start looking at running technique with a purpose in mind. The ‘big two’ that I hear repeatedly are 1) to reduce their risk of injury and 2) to get faster.
When transitioning to barefoot or minimalist running, speed will usually decrease in the early stages as changing how your run requires a certain amount of concentration and restraint. As people start to master efficient technique they often start to gradually increase mileage. Now they’re running well and over a decent distance but speed is seemingly forgotten about.
When I do gait analysis I deliberately look at different speeds of running. It’s really common that a runner will be able to maintain decent-ish technique at slower speeds, but as I challenge them to speed up they revert to bending forwards from the waist and over-striding.
Working on technique can help with speed, but playing with speed may actually also help with technique. Runners often get ‘stuck in one gear’ whereby they always train at the same pace. It’s really important to become proficient at different speeds whether you want to be a competitive runner or just want to run well with efficient technique.
1) Add speed bursts to your steady-state runs.
Adding quick bursts of acceleration will help you to recruit different muscle fibres and provide your technique with a pick-me-up. Try throwing in bursts of 15-30 seconds of faster running. For example, if you’re training at Marathon pace pick up the pace to 1/2M or 10k pace. These bursts will help you to run taller, increase you’re cadence and invigorate your running as you’re starting to fatigue. Space the bursts out by at least a mile or 10-15mins and include 2-3 per run.
2) Become proficient at slow speeds
Maintaining a quick cadence at slow speeds can help you to master relaxation and learn to move with the least amount of energy expenditure. Try running at around 4miles per hour (or 15minute-mile pace) whilst maintaining a 180 cadence. Run tall and relaxed with minimal effort.
3) Work on technique to run faster.
Finally, improving technique can be a great tool for increasing speed. A really important aspect of technique for speed is what we call ‘posterior chain engagement’ or put more simply, how well you use your hamstrings and glutes to propel you forwards. For this purpose I use a number of drills plus some conditioning exercises. The pull drill shown here is a really simple place to start. It gives you a feel for using your hamstrings to pick your foot up. If you leave your foot in contact with the ground for too long you create excess leverage and slow yourself down. After performing the drill you should feel your running gets a little boost of extra speed.