2 tips to improve running performance


I hope all my fellow fitness fanatics are having a terrific and healthy summer! I just got back from a 25.5 mile(41 km) run(a new personal record), so I am a little tired, though not as tired as I thought I would be. It took me 4 hours and 58 minutes to complete. I am sure I would have done better had the weather been less hot and humid and I had bothered to refuel with carbs half-way through(I just had water).

I wanted to experiment, to see how I would do without refueling(which is what I usually do on long runs), even while running farther than ever. I admit that an 11 min, 41 second pace is nothing to brag about, even while juggling the whole way. You’re all probably wondering why I didn’t just run 26.2 miles, the marathon distance. I came so close to doing it, and mistakenly believed I had(I wasn’t thinking clearly near the end and miscalculated, not to mention how sore my legs were), but after maping out my run when I got home, I realized I had run just 25.5 miles. There’s always a next time…

To get back on topic: As I am sure you all know, I love to dig through the scientific literature to find things we can do to improve our fitness level. Among many other things I’ve recently found, I came upon some interesting new research on improving running speed. This comes from Harvard University, Bedford, Massachusetts, Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements:

We conclude that human runners reach faster top speeds not by repositioning their limbs more rapidly in the air, but by applying greater support forces to the ground.

So I will try to remember not to lift my legs as much during runs. Although it doesn’t say so, I believe longer strides tend to increase the risk of injury too.

In other research, it appears that eating beets, which are rich in nitrates(its not a good idea to get nitrates from non-vegetable sources, they can be unhealthy), can help improve running performance too. Saint Louis University has found that:

Consumption of nitrate-rich, whole beetroot improves running performance in healthy adults. Because whole vegetables have been shown to have health benefits, whereas nitrates from other sources may have detrimental health effects, it would be prudent for individuals seeking performance benefits to obtain nitrates from whole vegetables, such as beetroot.

Taken from “Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance.”

Copyright © 2012 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Although I have previously posted about beets improving running performance, that concerned beet juice, not whole beets: Can beet juice improve athletic performance? It’s nice to see that the whole vegetable has the same effect. I’ll be eating more of them from now on.

2 responses to “2 tips to improve running performance

  1. I would love to improve my running! That’s always been the thing I’ve had to work on. I’ve been playing soccer for years and it definitely requires a lot of running. I do okay, but I wish I didn’t tire out as quickly. I would love to become a serious runner, do track and field, marathons, those kind of things, but unfortunately I am just not a natural born runner. I’m also constantly told that I don’t lift my feet high enough when I run. Any thoughts?

    • The study I posted recommended not lifting your feet too high to improve speed. I also believe that just about everyone can improve their running speed to some degree. You can do this by interval training(running very fast, then walking in intervals), strength training the legs by doing leg lifts with ankle weights, explosiveness training for the legs(jumping squats, lunges), among other things like eating beets, and just eating healthy and getting enough sleep/recovering properly. You only need to strength train the legs 2 to 3 times a week to see results. Consult a good running trainer if you can.

      I used to play soccer too, but wasn’t a good player. Also, although it is very popular, stretching appears to be useless for runners. Training your mind is also very important. As for “natural” runners: Jeff Galloway, U.S Olympic runner doesn’t see himself as a “natural” and was quite lazy when he first started running. Genes do play a role obviously, but they aren’t everything. Thank you for coming by, you have a really cool blog. Have a great rest of the summer.


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