Runners World Articles: Archives
Easy Glider - Conserve energy with this simple
Ever wish you could coast along every so often and take a breather,
like a cyclist? In a sense, you can- once you learn a little trick
I call "gliding."
I learned about gliding the hard way when I lost a race to a couple
of guys who used them. It was during a 10,000 meters in Minsk, Belarus,
running against the USSR at the height of the Cold War. The last
half of the race was a battle of strategy between two Soviets and
On each curve, they took turns gliding. Mistaking this subtle easing
of pace for weakness, I tried to pass the glider on most of the
turns, burning up precious energy. With 200 meters to go, my repeated
accelerations had taken their toll, and my opponents sprinted away.
The good news is, itís easy to master this technique. And once
you do, youíll run smoother, stronger, and longer automatically.
What are gliders? Many of us incorporate gliders into our
runs without even realizing it. When you run down a hill, using
the momentum of the last few yards to relax while keeping the same
speed for a few steps, youíre gliding. With practice you can stretch
the distance of this glide, riding the wave of momentum farther
and farther. You can even learn to adapt this technique to flat
Why do they work? Muscles fatigue more rapidly when you
constantly run the same way, even at a slow pace. Gliding alternates
the way your running muscles are used, giving them a chance to recharge.
By making slight changes in stride, posture, and foot placement,
youíll use gravity and momentum while conserving energy.
How do you do them? To glide, you must relax the leg muscles
by slightly shortening your stride length. By running lightly and
staying low to the ground (i.e. not "bouncing"), youíll increase
turnover while reducing effort. Youíll also slow down slightly,
but practice will minimize this effect. Try gliding one or two days
a week, for up to five to 10 steps at first. Over time, you should
gradually increase your gliding distance.
Learn to glide downhill first, then transfer your new skill to
Downhill. Short downhills make gliding easy, because gravity
is on your side. Fight the temptation to lengthen your stride and
zoom down the hill; instead, shorten your stride a little and keep
your feet close to the ground for control. As you respond to gravity
by increasing your leg turnover, your speed will increase effortlessly
and with little pounding.
As the hills level off, keep your stride comfortably short so that
the calf and hamstring muscles are relaxed. Use the momentum from
the downhill to coast for five to 10 strides at first. Remember
to keep your stride low and light.
Flat. After a few downhill sessions, youíre ready to move
on. First, build some momentum. After a slow mile warm-up, lean
forward slightly, shorten your stride and pick up the turnover of
your legs, gradually lengthening your stride to 5-K race form (fast
but not all out). After 10 to 20 faster steps, relax and return
to your bodyís upright body posture.
Now youíre ready to glide. As in coming off a hill, shorten your
stride slightly, stay low to the ground, and quickly and lightly
touch the ground with your feet, coasting for five to 10 strides.
With practice you can double or even triple this distance. It may
not seem like much, but these occasional shifts in speed can pay
off in the latter stages of a run. Each time you use gliders to
mix things up, youíre giving your legs a brief but sorely needed
Gliding Form - Here's how to glide like a pro:
* Shorten your stride slightly. Turnover should increase just a
little or stay the same.
* Run light. Pretend you're running on thin ice or eggshells.
* Relax. Adjust your running effort so your calf and hamstring
muscles are relatively loose.
* Pay attention to your posture. Run with your body perpendicular
to the horizonal. On a gradual downhill, lean forward slightly to
* Keep your feet close to the ground. By doing this, you don't
have to push off as much with your legs.
World, November 1999, p. 48
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