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Want to improve your running without having to run more miles? Here's how!

Improve your running efficiency: If you are like most runners, you probably overstride and land hard on your heels. Try shortening your stride so your foot strikes more of a glancing blow beneath your hips. Decreasing foot contact time with the ground makes you feel lighter on your feet and a smoother runner. Increase your stride rate.Good runners take about 180 steps per minute, or 90 in 30 seconds.Time your strides and see what your step rate is. Quicker leg turnover is necessary to compensate for your new, shorter stride length. Add intensity to one workout per week. Five or 6 intervals for 2 or 3 minutes at your 5K pace or faster ought to do it. Finish one or two of your other regular easy runs with 4 or 5 striders. Striders are 50-75 meters run at your 5K pace that keep your leg muscles accustomed to faster turnover. There is nothing like racing to help make you faster, so try to get one in every month or so. On the other 3 weekends that you do not race, pick one to plug in a 1.5-mile time trial workout, and treat it just like a race. Venturing outside of your comfort zone like this will help you understand pace, decrease anxiety, and run faster when it really counts. Add a spin class, bike some hills, or climb some stairs once or twice a week, especially if your muscles are sore from running. These non-running workouts will boost your level of fitness and add enough extra leg strength to make a difference in your running times. One of my favorites is 4 x 2 min hill repeats on my mountain bike. I run in the morning and do this 30 minute intense workout in the evening. Hard work with no extra pounding! Get in the habit of stretching key muscle groups, especially as you get older. A runner's hamstrings, calf, gluts, and hip flexors should be stretched almost daily. I do most of mine in the evening. Lose weight if you need it! Extra body fat is like carrying lead in your pockets - it slows you down. Dropping just 2 or 3 pounds of body fat (not water!) by improving your eating habits makes a huge difference in your ability to run. Eliminate just one 12 oz soda or dessert per day and expect to lose a pound or 2 in less than a month! Always take an easy day after a hard or long running workout. Allowing time to recover optimizes each workout. Fatigue can often be blamed on dehydration. Most of us don't drink enough water, especially during the hot summer months. Drink at least ½ gallon of water on a daily basis.

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