At the dawn of my running career I thought it was the simplest of sports--if you want to run faster, move your legs faster and take bigger steps.
Bad news: I've tried and I'm not very good at it. Good news: I can blame it on my shortness. Short people take small steps, after all.
Since beginning my tri career two years ago I've picked up a few more tricks along the way. For example:
-If your foot strikes the ground in front of your body it will act as a brake, screeching your progress nearly to a halt with each step. (So that's why I'm so damn slow!)
-A midfoot strike (as opposed to a heel strike) may be more efficient. (This habit took some time to undo.)
-Ugly shoes make you run slower. (I knew it!!)
I incorporated these new tidbits into my regimen and prepared to watch minutes melt off my times. I have seen progress, but I'm still painfully slower than most people. So I reached outside the box this weekend and attended a running workshop held by a local pro triathlete with whom I've shared a few races these past two seasons. (The difference, of course, is that she wins them, packs up her stuff, eats a snack and goes home. And then I finish.)
I wasn't sure what to expect. How does someone else make you faster? I pictured the lot of us running around a track or even outdoors if it wasn't a typical March in Wisconsin (snow and sleet, 32 degrees). She'd holler instructions at me about my gait or posture or arm swing or ugly shoes. I'd correct myself. Shazzam!! I'd be faster!
It didn't work out that way.
A trainer did briefly analyze each runner's gait to correct any major flaws and advise us on proper footwear to fit our style. I have an efficient midfoot strike and require a neutral shoe. The prettier the better.
A large chunk of time was spent in a "run circuit"--Take a few laps around the indoor track, then pull over and pick one from a list of strength exercises and do a few reps, with trainers handy to gently push your butt down if you stick it up too high on your prone leg lifts. (I learned that the hard way.) The goal is to energize the little-used muscles in running, which translates to more efficiency all around. It made sense. And I think I finally learned why my legs, arms and back are well-toned but my core isn't. It might be because I never do any core exercises.
After an hour of our run circuit I was sore. My total running time never exceeded twenty minutes; it was the circuit part that did me in. I left a little depressed. Does this mean I've amped up my training schedule to 7+ hours a week, yet I still don't do enough?
This was several hours ago. Since then I've showered, ate a delicious grilled cheese sandwich, and spent the rest of my dividend at REI on some hot biking shorts. I'm going to find a way to incorporate the exercises I need into the workouts I already do without adding any more. I'll train smarter, not longer. And someday I will be a faster runner, no matter how freakin' short I am. Faster and with pretty shoes.