5 Tips for Longer, Faster Runs

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I played sports throughout high school, but, like many athletes, I never saw the need to be a great runner. That all changed when I enlisted in the Army.

Throughout Army Basic Training, my drill sergeants pushed me to run further than I thought possible. Good running form quickly became necessary for survival, and I learned several important methods to improve my abilities.

Whether you're training for track competitions or boot camp, use the five tips below to run further and faster than you ever have.

1. Look where you're going. A common mistake many runners make when they're tired is dropping their head to their chest. This puts unnecessary strain on the neck and causes runners to deviate from an efficient straight line. Concentrate on keeping your head and neck relaxed at all times, and maintain focus on the ground 20 feet in front of you.


2. Lean into it. Another common mistake runners make when covering long distances is leaning back. This creates a counterproductive pulling action in the hips. Make gravity work for you by leaning slightly forward while maintaining proper alignment with your head, shoulders and hips.

3. Strike in the center. Use your center of gravity to your advantage. Strike the ground with your foot directly under your hips. When you land, concentrate on hitting the ground with the middle of your foot to avoid injury and fatigue.

4. Run at a modified double-time cadence. To improve your running scores, you must achieve what trainers call a "modified double-time cadence," which are shorter, faster strides. Most average runners reach approximately 70 to 80 strides per minute. Professional runners who maintain a modified double-time cadence reach as many as 100 strides per minute. Because short, quick strides are more efficient than long strides, quickening your cadence will result in less fatigue and faster times.

5. Maintain grace. Even when Olympic runners reach record-breaking speeds, they look like they're barely working. Mimic their form by remaining relaxed and eliminating all unnecessary movements. If you usually furrow your brow, clench your fists and tighten your muscles during runs, you'll be amazed by how much better you feel when you concentrate on staying loose.

Use these tips to perfect your running form on the track, streets, beaches or trails. Email me for a free PDF of my latest running workout. HOOAH!

Interested in more workouts? Visit nationalguard.com/life/fitness for dozens of simple and effective workouts that require little or no equipment.

Photo:  militarytimes.com

Staff Sergeant Ken Weichert is a Master Fitness Trainer, six-time Soldier of the Year and veteran of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Desert Storm. In 1998, Weichert founded START Fitness, a group exercise and hiking company that leads both soldiers and civilians in military-style workouts.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock