Understanding Power: How to improve your speed, race time and recovery!

When we dissect the definition of power it is broken down into three basic components:  movement, force and rate. The quicker we can move something the more powerful we are said to be. In the context of running this is an important concept to understand. As you prepare for Around the Bay this year keep in mind there are several ways you can improve your overall power and ultimately your finishing time.

The misconception in running is that the faster you move your feet the better the running time. Runners must keep in mind; speed is not only dictated by the rate, but the width of stride. The more powerful the individual the greater the ability they have to increase stride length. A wider stride length allows the body to store more elastic energy, similar to the way an elastic band is stretched then released. A more powerful stride decreases the amount of times the foot contacts the ground, allowing for quicker recovery and less injuries. Here are some things to consider while trying to develop a powerful program for this year’s race.

Quality over Quantity: When looking at the number of times you run per week focus on quality workouts. The number one reason I see runners injured is they are simply running too much. 3-4 runs per week is plenty, this allows for consistent improvement in times, while allowing recovery.

Post Run Recovery: Following your runs there are several things that help recovery. Recovery is about the next run, the quicker the recovery the better you will be the following workout. Be sure to have a meal high in protein following your workout. Water is equally as important as food. Weigh yourself before and after each run. For every pound lost in sweat you need to consume 500ml of water following your workout. Lastly, avoid heat. Many runners jump in the hot tub after a run. This may only increase inflammation, aggravating underlying injuries. Instead try a cold tub or ice bath for 10-15 minutes. This will decrease inflammation and help flush toxins out that have accumulated during the workout. Be mindful that if you have high blood pressure you should consult your physician before using extremes of both temperatures.

Powerful Rotation: The more powerful the core and trunk, the less stress is placed on your legs to develop power. Instead coach your body to move as an effective machine. As a result there will be more even distribution of force resulting in less overall effort.

Try this! Grab a medicine ball (or basketball). In an athletic position stand perpendicular to a wall. Holding the ball, rotate the body away from the wall, placing the majority of your weight on the rear leg. Be sure that when you rotate your hips and shoulders move at the same rate. Once you reach the end point, explode out of the position rotating the body back towards the wall, releasing the ball at the end point. Catch the ball as it bounces back to you and repeat the exercise. Perform 10 repetitions per side, take a break and perform twice more.



Hip Power: The hip muscles are one of the most powerful muscle groups in the body. The more powerful the hips the more effective a runners stride. Powerful hips also play an integral part the prevention of knee injuries.

Try This! Stand over a weight with the feet shoulder width apart. Placing your hands on the thighs, sit back onto your hips. Keeping the chest up and open bend through the hips (not the back!) to bend forward and pick up the weight. Squeezing your hip muscles extend your hips, while pushing through your heels, until you are standing tall. Reverse the motion slowly to lower the weight back down to the ground. Repeat 6-8 repetitions take a break and perform twice more. If you have any pre-existing back conditions be cautious of the exercise, consult a health care professional and make sure the exercise is safe for you.

Move: What do you mean move I am running? One of the problems associated with running is it focuses on movement in one plane and one direction. You are always going forwards. When this happens the body can easily tighten up when required to move side to side or twist. Moving through multiple planes is not only important for power development, but also in preventing injuries during a slip or fall while training.

Try This! Start all four with one leg crossed over so that one shin rests on the opposite calf. While maintaining a solid position, lean your body weight towards the hip of the leg that has been crossed.  Move as far as you can until you feel a stretch in your hip, pause for one second and return to the starting position. Repeat 15 repetitions per side take a break, and perform twice more.

Program Design: A runner’s program design is about maximizing workouts and proper recovery. As you gain experience you will develop a better understanding of what works for you. General running guidelines advise performing one speed or hill work, one tempo run (faster than your race pace) and a long run per week. Long runs are typically done slower than you expect to run the race in. This combination of training always keeps the body guessing, while allowing various body systems time for recovery.

Ideally there should also be an element of cross training. Cross training may consist of cycling, swimming or weight training; this will challenge the heart while decreasing joint stress. Recovery weeks are also essential, and consist of lighter workouts where the body is able to rest and recovery before it pushes to the next level. Injury prevention is also a key component of any running program. Whether you are managing it at home, or have a therapist be sure you consider soft tissue health. Think of yourself as a car, if you don’t continue maintenance it eventually breaks down!!!

So happy running as you continue training towards the Around the Bay. Be sure to look for article #2 where will discuss key stretches to help you cross this year’s finish line!

Conor Collins is a Sports Injury Therapist and Active Release Therapy provider at the Foot Knee Back Clinic in Ancaster, Ontario. For more information visit www.conorpcollins.com or call 905-304-6556.