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Tri Training Tips: Five Ways to Become a More Efficient Runner

By USA Triathlon | Nov. 26, 2008, 5:27 p.m. (ET)

Tri Training Tips


Tri Training Tips is a weekly web feature to help USAT members take their training to the next level. A new training tip will be posted every Thursday, so check this page weekly.

November 27, 2008

Become a more efficient runner
Below is a list of some important running techniques that can help you run faster and more efficiently.

  1. Stride length and stride rate
    The most common inefficiency in the average runner is over striding. This is typically visible by a heavy heel strike and a low stride rate.  The target stride rate for most age group runners is between 88-90 foot strikes per minute (how many times one foot hits the ground per minute). By targeting this rate, (or higher) athletes will often shorten their stride to become more efficient and lessen strain on their joints.
  2. Foot strike
    Foot strike is very closely related to stride length and rate. The optimal foot strike is mid foot or in some cases forefoot. A heel strike is the runner’s way of putting on the brakes. This is also very hard on hip and knee joints. 
  3. Arm movement
    Arms are an essential part of running. They provide balance and often, additional power. Keep arms close to the body, elbows bent about 90 degrees, and do not cross the center line of the body. Keep movements “quit” and relaxed. 
  4. Body position
    Forward lean or lack thereof can play a major part in efficiency. The best general thought to have while focusing on body position is: "run tall.” This means run with your head high, looking 15-30 feet in front of you.  Run erect with your shoulders back and arms at your side.  (remember #3)  A slight forward lean of about 5-6 degrees is often optimal to assist in proper foot strike and cadence.
  5. Shoes
    Yes, shoes! This is one of the most often overlooked yet essential aspects of running well. Many foot shapes, gait types, and stride techniques require many different types of shoes. Buy your shoes from a reputable running specific store that will analyze your foot along with your run technique to offer an optimum shoe.

Ken Axford is a USAT Certified Level 1 coach and the head coach of Fast-Tri Sports. Visit Fast-Tri Sports' website at