The lessons in Aseop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, are still relevant. Especially if your goal is to improve your race time. It is less about pushing yourself to run fast and more about sticking with the basics. Below are 6 considerations for running more efficiently.
Tortoise starts out slowly and continues at a steady pace. In contrast, the hare takes off at full speed and then “bonks” part way. Meanwhile, Tortoise, consistent and steady wins the race.
Training should consist of a slow steady progression that keeps you moving for-ward without set backs and injuries.
One common mistake especially with those newer to racing, is starting out too fast. This is often a result of the energy created by our emotions (nervousness, excitement, etc.) or the ego (not able to handle someone getting ahead of you). Like Tortoise, start a race at a pace you can maintain with energy left to pick it up and push hard in the end. Sounds easy, but this can take some serious self control.
Hare demonstrates how to listen to his body; he starts off running fast, and then he stops to nap midway be-tween the start and finish line. (Running in intervals would be a good example of this.)
Have you ever been on a run and felt like your legs each weighed an extra 20 pounds? Where your breathing was more labored? Or your heart rate was higher than your normal range? As an athlete, I’d be surprised if you haven’t experienced this from time to time. The important question becomes, did you listen to what your body was telling you? If you are like me, there have been times in my life where I ignored my body and pushed through. (And often later regretted it.)
However, over time I’m learning to listen more and more closely to the signals my body gives — resting when it says rest and working when it says move. The results are worth the willpower it takes to allow yourself a day off. (And just to be clear, I’m not talking about when your head is saying, “I don’t feel like running to-day”. I am talking about listening to physical signals that your body is offering.)
Be flexible with your training program. Let your body tell you when to take your rest days.
Rest is an essential piece in your training program to increase speed, efficiency and to prevent injury. The key is to listen to your body.
You have heard it before… “You are what you eat.” What you eat either increases performance or decreases performance just as it either promotes health or promotes disease. If you’re serious about running faster and more efficiently then it’s time to pay closer attention to what you’re putting in your mouth.
Your body is mostly water. Saying hydrated keeps all of your body’s systems functioning at their best. Water removes toxins out of body. Water helps to lubricate and protect joints. It helps your body’s tissues and muscles stay supple and strong. A second big mistake people make is relying on energy drinks (this goes for energy bars or gels too) when they’re not needed. If you want to run fast, hydration is key and often water is the better choice unless you’re exercising for multiple hours or if there is excess heat, etc.
Typically people have enough stored carbohydrates for approximately 2 hours of moderate to intense exercise. In contrast, fat stores can supply many hours of energy. Through both nutrition and how you exercise, you can train your body to be more efficient by burning the fats.
Here’s one secret to create more efficiency that most people don’t think about — POSTURE. Tortoise had great posture and running form which is another reason why he won the race. Okay, so I made that part up. But seriously, just watch someone run with a rotated or elevated pelvis, a rotated torso, or rounded shoulders with head forward. Not only can you visually see the inefficiency, but it looks painful, too!
Have you ever watched someone run and thought to yourself, “Boy, they look like they are in a lot of pain!” Or maybe you have experienced feeling an imbalance in your own gait and wondered what was happening. The point is that if you’re serious about improving your race time, then it is essential to resolve any structural imbalances.
Here is an example:
Imagine you are a race car driver. You are preparing for an important race. Would you train with a tire out of alignment? No, of course not!!! And if you race to win then you definitely wouldn’t race with unaligned tires. The friction created by an unaligned tire slows the car down. In addition, it is not safe making a crash more likely to happen. Even if a crash is avoided, overtime the misalignment damages the parts and may cause something to eventually break.
Likewise, it makes sense to have your joints aligned when you run. Moving through your joints more cleanly results in better race times and increased strength due to moving in a more balanced & functional range of motion as well as improved agility and balance for those enjoying trail runs. And postural alignment helps to prevent injury so you can run without interruption.
So the moral of the story is that both Tortoise and Hare teach us something valuable.
Like Hare, listen to your body. Like Tortoise, value consistency and enjoy the process.
Running, like life, is a process. There are many changes we can make to run faster, longer distances and improve efficiently. If you are ready for more, take an honest look at how you are doing on the 6 pieces above. And challenge yourself to choose one or two you can implement or improve on. Your body will thank you for it. And your run will look, feel and be smoother, faster, and more comfortable.
If you would like to find out if your tires are out of alignment, I invite you to set up an Initial Postural Assessment with me. Click Here