It’s always great to hear the views of different running experts, and today’s brief post, which features the training philosophy of Coach Pete Magill, is no exception. Magill, a now 55-year-old Masters runner, holds the world record for fastest 5k for age 49+ (fastest time of 14:45), and is the co-author of Build Your Running Body, and author of recently released book The Born Again Runner.
In an interview with RunnersConnect host Tina Muir, Magill made the statement that the “best stride is the self-selected stride.” What he meant is that we can’t simply make a conscious effort to improve our form by attempting for example, to shorten or lengthen our stride. That is a ridiculous notion, he says, because our bodies, while in motion, are firing off thousands of nerve impulses per second that couldn’t possibly be influenced by just a few messages from the brain to the legs. However, practicing regular form drills – an act which does not require conscious thinking – will naturally teach your body the motion of a better stride.
Unfortunately many runners are opposed to doing form drills because of the extra time that needs to be factored in to their usual running routine. And this is why Magill believes that a lot of runners are not meeting their full potential, and why injury rates are so high. They run the same runs day after day, using the same motion – but maybe changing up pace, intensity, or distance – yet fail to recruit other important muscle fibers. A similar scenario would be one in which a farmer owned a giant field, and expected to produce a full harvest despite having watered only a third of the field.
When you neglect to use all of your muscle fibers, explains Magill, the unused muscles eventually atrophy and create muscle imbalances that in turn result in injuries. In doing form drills, you learn how to recruit and use all your muscles together in the most efficient way; that’s what self-selected stride is, and it’s the most optimal stride for faster, stronger, and injury-free running.