Seven tips for stronger running

  • By Brian Mackenzie & T.J. Murphy
  • Published March 18, 2016
Photo: Kurt Hoy

Brian Mackenzie, a strength and conditioning coach and the creator of CrossFit Endurance, shares skills and drills to help athletes run with greater efficiency and speed.

Pull with the hamstring
Consider your form like a piston in an engine—after your foot touches the ground, pull the ankle and foot up with your hamstring. The more compact your form, the more efficient it becomes. Imagine your stride can only be as long as the area in a phone booth.

Maintain proper posture and position
To promote better posture, keep your head up, eyes focused down the road and core muscles engaged. This will take the load off your knees and place it on your trunk (hips and hamstrings).

Your proper running position can be found by first placing your body weight on the ball of one foot. Slightly bend your knee over your planted foot and hold your ankle below your hip. Hold for one minute on each leg.

Keep your stride quiet
The less time each foot spends on the ground, the better. Listen to your stride—the quieter it becomes, the less time your ankles have to roll inward and create injuries.

Pick up your cadence
Grab a metronome and set it to 90 beats per minute, and your right foot should make contact with the ground on every click. The increased push-offs per minute also increases speed while decreasing over-striding and heel striking.

Develop a forward lean
Lean forward as you run by slightly engaging your core muscles. This will force you to lean from your ankles, not the waist.

Land underneath your centre of gravity
Contact the ground with your mid-foot or forefoot directly under your centre of gravity. After a few practice runs, your stride will begin to feel like a spinning wheel with relatively no pounding.

Be patient
Your proper form will be developed through practice, so dedicate one day a week to form drills.

Develop a forward lean
Lean forward as you run by slightly engaging your core muscles. This will force you to lean from your ankles, not the waist.

Quick Mobility for Runners
Adapt these easy movements into your training three times a week for increased mobility.

Grab a foam roller, massage stick and massage ball, and do each movement for one minute on each side—a timer helps to stay on track.

1. Roll the ball under each foot and find any hot spots that need attention.
2. Knead out each calf muscle with the massage stick, and feel for any knots. Spend extra time in sensitive areas, and use the massage ball to target specific areas.
3. Roll out the quadriceps muscles by lying face-down on the floor, with the foam roller beneath your thighs.
4. Target the iliotibial (IT) band with the foam roller by rolling from the hip to the knee on the outside of the leg.
5. Spend one minute rolling out each hamstring with the foam roller.
6. Finish off by using the foam roller to roll out your lower back and hips. The massage ball can also be substituted when working out the gluteus muscles.

Adapted from the book Unbreakable Runner ( by Brian Mackenzie and T.J. Murphy.

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