Are you looking to run faster? Shave seconds off your miles, minutes off your total time? Would it shock you to know that in order to run faster you have to take smaller steps? That’s right; in order to run faster you have to take shorter, quicker steps. No matter what this sounds like to you; hog-wash, backwards, misleading advice, it’s true. And I can prove it.

When you run you exert a certain amount of energy; this is seen in the increase your heart rate, that clarifying sweat you produce and the sore muscles when finished. When you take large, bounding steps; kind of leaping, clearing or extending yourself when you run, instead of moving faster what you’re actually doing is exerting more energy than if you took shorter, quicker steps. The force it takes your body to push back from then earth is harder for that larger step. To land and repel gravity, to push forward again and again with large steps, will slow you down every time.

Now if you took smaller steps you would cover that distance too, BUT you would waste less energy while moving. Instead of fighting gravity and pushing yourself harder, you land lightly and pick up your feet more quickly, increasing your foot turn-over rate and reducing the relative amount of force of your body. It’s literally the laws of Physics, specifically Newton’s Second Law of Motion. When the force on an object is unbalanced, than acceleration can be increased if the mass of the object is decreased. Now, it’s impossible to drastically reduce your mass (think a huge weight loss in days!) BUT you can reduce your mass in terms of gravity by taking smaller steps when running; you reduce the force of gravity compared to taking large steps.

Shorter quicker steps can be physically measured to see where you lie in the speed scale. On your next timed run (watch or treadmill) count how many times your right foot strikes the ground for one minute. When the minute is over multiple that number by 2 and that’s how many times your feet touch the ground during a run. When you want to run faster, concentrate on getting your feet to touch more times than before and before you know it your running faster.

Running faster will take more effort at first; you’ll be breathing harder, sweating more and may feel more tired. This is good! This means you’re moving faster!

My foot strike, for example is (on average) 174 per minute. My right foot strikes the ground 87 times per minute. The average marathoner has a 180 turn-over rate and beginners to running have an 80 turn-over for their foot strike.

The same can be said of life and running. When you’re looking to move forward in life you don’t do it with giant leaps and huge bounds. You don’t just become… president, or a Nobel Prize winner or an astronaut, without moving through life with small steps forward. Sometimes these steps might not even feel like a forward motion. But you’re still being carried forward, just with less effort than a huge leap, so you can still breathe.

Whether in running or in life, don’t discount the little steps you take. They still matter. They still need care and thoughtfulness. Even the small steps move you forward.

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