Increasing speed comes up often in our Chi Running workshops and forums. We hear questions like, "How do I achieve a personal best time at my next marathon?" or "I want to qualify for Boston—how can I get faster?"
Even runners without competitive aspirations want to see continual improvement over time. Speed is a measure of progress that almost everyone can relate to, but as we try to get faster we also run the risk of overworking our legs or getting injured.
While many people who begin Chi Running experience a natural increase in their speed right away, we de-emphasize speed as an immediate goal. True mastery lies in the ability to set up the conditions for speed through proper technique.
This means cooperating with the force of gravity by leaning more while simultaneously holding your alignment and relaxing your hips, legs, shoulders and arms. Think of it in terms of physics: as you offer less and less resistance to the force pulling you forward, the faster you'll go.
Technique First, Then Distance, Then Speed
To run effortlessly with good technique is a goal we all share. Applying these Chi Running Form Focuses will improve your efficiency and allow you to build distance gradually.
Create a straight line from the crown of your head to your feet. When you're properly aligned, your body is supported by your structure, not your muscles.
Lean From the Ankles
Leaning slightly from the ankles allows gravity to pull you along as you fall forward.
Land with a mid-foot strike rather than a heel strike to decrease impact to your lower legs, knees, and hips.
Keep your stride short to avoid pulling yourself forward with your legs.
As your legs swing out behind you, allow your hips to rotate around their central axis with each step. Make sure your core is engaged and that your pelvis isn't moving laterally (side to side).
Maintaining a constant cadence—the rate at which your feet strike the ground measured in strides per minute—prevents your legs from spending too much time supporting your body weight with each step. We recommend running at a 170 to 180 spm (or 85 to 90 spm for each leg).