Most runners think they need stronger legs to get faster. But, if you watch elite Kenyan runners, you'll see that sheer muscle has very little to do with speed. They lean forward slightly, keep a quick cadence, and lengthen their stride to cover more ground quickly. Their speed doesn't come from massive quads or calves; on the contrary, it's a result of rigorous training with good running form.
ChiRunning teaches these same concepts. It may surprise you, but the key to speed starts with your core.
- Stability. Leaning forward from the ankles allows you to use gravity for propulsion instead of your legs. All you have to do is pick up your feet with each stride to keep up with your forward fall. Engaging your core keeps you balanced and stable as you lean.
- Relaxation. We tell our beginning ChiRunning clients that their abdominals are the only muscles that should feel sore after running. That's because smaller muscle groups, such as the lower legs, should be relaxed to reduce overuse and prevent injury. Maintaining a forward lean allows your legs to land underneath your center of mass so they can simply support you in the landing phase. If you run upright and your feet land out in front of you, your legs must pull your entire body forward with every step.
- Longer strides. You don't achieve speed by taking more steps. Instead, increase your forward lean and allow your stride to lengthen behind you. You gain more ground while keeping the same cadence (steps per minute). As you lean more, your core must stay engaged to maintain stability.