Stride Is Everything!

26 04 2010

Have you ever tried counting the number of strides/steps or stride cycles to complete one lap on the Oval Track at Lane #1? Or have you counted the number of steps or stride cycle for you to cover a distance of one kilometer? or up to the distance of 3, 5, or 10 kilometers? 

I have never tried counting my stride cycle on Lane #1 at the Oval Track but I’ve tried counting my stride cycle on Lane #8. I was able to count 240 “stride cycles” on my first try, counting every time my left foot strikes the ground. (Note: Stride Cycle is equivalent to two (2) strides/steps). But for my 2nd try, I was able to lessen the number of stride cycle to 210 until I was able to decrease it to 204 on my 3rd up to 5th repetitions.  This means that at my fastest pace, I was able to count 408 steps/strides to complete one lap on the Oval Track at Lane #8.

The problem was that I was not able to get my exact time to finish one lap of the oval track! I can only assume (through my feelings) that I was able to finish one lap at 2:15-2:20 minutes at Lane #8. With this assumption in time, I can say that my stride frequency or leg turn-over on that particular workout was 180-182 strides per minute! Surprised? Of course, I was surprised also because elite runners would generate an average of 180 to 190 strides per minute according to scientific studies based on the performance of elite runners and Olympic Champions. But the problem was that I was not as fast as the world elite runners. It is due to the fact that a have a short stride length, which is the distance between the tip of my rear foot to the tip of my front foot.

I did this workout two weeks ago and since then I was observant on the number of strides or “stride cycles” I can generate in running a particular distance, whether I am in the Oval Track or on the road.

Experts would say that for you to generate a faster pace or faster finish time, a runner must be able to increase his/her stride length and at the same time increase his/her stride frequency or leg turn-over. It is easy to say and comprehend this theory or rule but the implimentation would take a lot of patience, hardwork, & determination. Being an old runner, there is no way I can increase my stride length as I have the tendency to “shuffle” with my feet/legs when I am running. I barely lift my knees when I run and I am more comfortable in letting my feet graze a few inches from the ground as if I am sliding my feet, one foot at a time, barely hitting the ground. This “shuffling” technique had protected my knees for the years that I’ve been running. I never had any injuries or pain in my knees!

The only way I could generate a faster pace and finish time is to be able to increase my stride frequency or stride cycle. I must be able to consistenly count 180 strides per minute or count 90 stride cycles every minute. In counting stride cycle, I count every time my right of left foot touches the ground. Although I’ve been doing this technique in my past races, I only think of doing this technique when I want to sustain my strength in the last kilometers of the race. The counting of the stride cycles becomes my “mantra” when I need more push and extra effort to maintain my average pace in a race.

Last Monday, I tried running at the Oval Track at Lane #1 and I was able to register the following number of stride cycles, time and average pace:

Rep #1—167 stride cycles—1:47 minutes—4:20 mins per km

Rep #2—173 stride cycles—1:53 minutes—4:32 mins per km

Rep #3—173 stride cycles—1:49 minutes—4:25 mins per km

Rep #4—166 stride cycles—1:45 minutes—4:11 mins per km

Rep #5—172 stride cycles—1:48 minutes—4:18 mins per km

In this workout, I was able to generate an average of 170 stride cycles or 340 steps; with an average time of 1:48 minutes; and with an average pace of 4:21 minutes per kilometer. By looking at the results of my experimentation, I can safely say that I can generate a stride frequency of 180 steps or more per minute but the problem is how to sustain such frequency in a half-marathon or marathon distance race. For me to improve on my time in my next marathon race, I should be able to sustain my stride frequency of 180 steps per minute for the whole race.

After my workout at the Oval Track last Monday, I asked one of my elite runners on how to sustain my stride frequency during a race. He answered that I need to do a lot of “drills and plyo” exercises. He also suggested some of the drills I have to do regularly.

This issue on sustaining my stride frequency led me to make some research on the Internet. I was able to browse on an article made by Tony Benson who was the Australian Coach behind our successes in Athletics through Governor Michael Keon’s Project Gintong Alay in the 70s and 80s about a list of “guide” (based from his experience) to maximize ones potential in running by counting the number of strides/steps to cover a certain distance. The following is his “guide” on the number of steps a runner expects to generate depending on his/her average pace:

  • 8 minute kilometre pace (48 seconds per 100m) = 122 to 127 steps per 100m (~1250 per kilometre)
  • 7 minute kilometre pace (42 seconds per 100m) = 109 to 111 steps per 100m (~1100 per kilometre)
  • 6 minute kilometre pace (36 seconds per 100m) = 98 to 102 steps per 100m (~1000 per kilometre)
  • 5 minute kilometre pace (30 seconds per 100m) = 83 to 86 steps per 100m (~850 per kilometre)
  • 4 minute kilometre pace (24 seconds per 100m) = 64 to 67 steps per 100m (~650 per kilometre)
  • 3 minute kilometre pace (18 seconds per 100m) = 55 to 57 steps per 100m (~560 per kilometre)
  • From this “guide”, you can conclude that if you run at a slow pace, the tendency is to run with a shorter stride length. However, if you have a faster pace/average pace, the tendency is to run with a longer stride length. This is due to the fact that a runner with a faster pace has the tendency to generate a bounce/jump that propels the runner to take a longer stride. In my experience, I could only generate an average of 75 to 80 centimeters of stride length during my LSD or easy run but if I am doing my speed and/or tempo runs at the Oval Track, I could generate an average of 115 to 117 centimeters. Yes, I went to the extent of measuring my stride length just to be able to improve on my running.

    In the book, “Brain Training For Runners” by Matt Fitzgerald, I found out that the “drills and plyo” exercises recommended by my elite athlete is a small portion of the whole solution in the pursuit of stride development. The author, for obvious reasons, recommends the “Brain Training Approach”. The first approach is Emulation. I am not saying that I should emulate or try to run like Haile and the other world-class elite runners/Olympic Champions in the Marathon Race as seen on tapes, DVDs, You Tube, and other recordings.

    Observing my elite athletes do their workouts at the Oval Track, I could not find a running form that resembles my style. They have very long stride lengths and faster stride frequency. But, what impressed me most was my observation (with my own eyes) on how the Japanese ultrarunners performed in the Jeju International Ultramarathon 100K Race, that is to include the women runners. They have short strides but their stride frequency was very fast. They land their feet on midfoot and they quickly lift their feet once they get in contact with the ground. Their foot contact with the ground was very quick and light. You could hardly see them lift their thighs so high and see them lift their feet on the backward motion. It was amazing to see their feet “shuffling” and grazing a minimum height from the ground!

    Since Monday of last week, I’ve been counting the number of steps or stride cycle every time I run, trying to emulate those Japanese ultrarunners. I know it will take a lot of practice and patience to count every time I run but I could feel some improvements with my average pace.

    Right now, I am looking for that inexpensive watch with a metronome beat of 180-190 beats per minute which will be my “partner” in my running workout until such time that my body system will be used to the beat. At least, that will save me from counting every step I make in my run. 

    To be continued…

    (References: BENSON’s EPS Step With The Best To Success & “Brain Training For Runners by Matt Fitzgerald)








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