A tip for improving your running efficiency (and reducing injury risk) – plus a 6-week runner bootcamp

Here’s a question a lot of runners are asking right now: I’m upping my weekly mileage steadily over the summer, preparing for a fall marathon. I’m worried about the extra mileage resulting in injury. I know that I shouldn’t increase my mileage too dramatically, what else could I do to prevent me from getting to the finish line?

For this answer, we asked Lindsey Hagen, DPT, a Physical Therapist and Elite Runner with Broadway Physical Therapy. Here’s what she has to say:

As the weather improves and you start increasing weekly mileage, think about a simple running form correction that may keep you off the injured list and might just get you a PR for 2014 …
Increase your step rate, or decrease your stride length, to improve your running efficiency, decrease chance of injury, and increase speed.  Step Rate is defined by the number of times your feet touch the ground per minute. You must shorten your stride length (the distance between your right and left foot) in order to increase step rate without changing pace. Both step rate and stride length can be altered without a change in pace.

The easiest way to practice this is on a treadmill. Pick a pace that is comfortably quick, then try and take really long strides (distance between left and right foot) or as few steps as possible while staying on the treadmill. Then do the opposite of taking shorter quicker steps, stepping as many times as possible without increasing speed. You’ll find yourself landing on the balls of your feet, kicking your heels up higher, and leaning your trunk forward, all improving your running economy.Spring training tip- Running Blog-2Although you will have a higher number of impacts with the ground, your contact time (time your foot is touching the ground) is decreased as your turnover rate is quickened. This decrease in ground contact time lessens your risk for injury.  Also, by shortening your stride you will have less risk of “overstriding” (reaching leg out beyond base of support as depicted in the red runner), a common form flaw leading to tendon/fascial overuse injuries.

Another way to determine your step rate is using a metronome or simply counting the number of times your right foot touches the ground in 1 minute and then multiply by two. The average recreational runner has a cadence of about 150-170spm, whereas the elite runner consistently runs at 180-185spm.  As your running efficiency improves you will likely find that you can increase your pace with ease using your newly established form of taking shorter, quicker steps. So get out there and greet the spring weather with some extra pep in your extra steps!
Happy trails!ATTENTION PORTLAND RUNNERS: If you’re interested in more training tips like this as well as strength, speed and flexibility training, join Lindsey for her Spring Runner’s Bootcamp.

When: Wednesdays from 6:30-7:30 starting April 17th for six weeks
Where: Broadway Physical Therapy at 3016 NE Broadway in Portland
Get more info and register: Email Lindsey at or call her at 503-287-6636 and ask about the Runner’s Bootcamp. Registration is only $65.
About Author

We started the Run Oregon blog in February 2007, because felt like running in Oregon and SW Washington deserved more positive coverage. We also wanted to level the playing field so that small, non-profit races could compete with big events; and to support local race organizers.

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