Strong and Long

There’s more to running than running, as any tuned-in coach will tell you. That’s especially the case over a distance like the mile, where a strong, supple stride will make a measurable difference to your performance. Here are four surefire stride-improvers.

Hill reps
Uphill repetitions give you a more powerful kick, and you can alternate them each fortnight with your normal faster-than-mile-pace sessions. Try 8-12 x 1 minute up a hill that is relatively tough without being hands-on-knees steep.

Downhill strides
Quickening your stride rate will increase your speed, though you need to do it safely. Run on a soft, smooth surface, remain in control, and run on relatively fresh legs. After a 20- to 30-minute run, for example, stretch, and then do six to eight sets of 20-second strides, with a walk-back recovery. Emphasise a fast pick-up of the legs.

Flexibility exercises
If you can lengthen your stride without straining and without bounding, your speed will increase (assuming that your stride rate will stay the same or increase.) Develop a naturally longer stride – and increased injury resistance – by stretching the hamstrings, gluteals, calves, groin and quads in two sets of 30 seconds after exercise, and two sets of 7-10 seconds after a pre-speedwork warm-up jog. If you want to progress further and you have time in the week, try yoga, too.

Strength training
Strength exercises are a further, low-impact way of building power. Miling will raise you onto your toes more than longer races, so concentrate on calf raises and, for propulsive power, half squats. Work without weights at first, in three sets of 15 repetitions each. Build up to three sets of 15, 12 and 10 repetitions, increasing the weight as you reduce the repetitions. (To prevent injury, and maintain balance at speed, complement these exercises with low-weight hamstring curls and oblique crunches.)