Running Power vs. Running Speed

February 14, 2019

The definition of speed is the distance traveled per time elapsed. We are familiar with its measurement. It is usually measured in miles per hour, or kilometers per hour. We also have meters per second. Often times we also talk about speed in terms of minutes per mile or pace. For example, today I ran 10 miles at 7:30 per mile. This is a relatively simple concept and runners talk about it in a variety of ways. But speed does not tell you the whole story about speed.

Run Powerfully

I have learned about automobiles. Automobiles also go fast, but it seems we are less interested in how fast they go and more interested in things like “Horsepower”. So what is power?

Power is a force applied over a certain distance traveled per time elapsed.

How is this related to speed? The last five words of the definition of power are precisely the definition of speed. Speed is the distance traveled within a certain time. Power simply adds force into the equation. Force is roughly analogous to effort in running.

Consider running on a hill. When you’re running down the hill, you use less effort yet you run faster. When you’re running up the hill you’re running slower but using much more effort. Because the effort is greater, you might be exerting more power even though you are running slower!

This is a very important concept to really understand. Recall that the highest virtue is speed. Just because you are exerting more power does not give you an excuse for going slow. Therefore, in order to continue to run fast up hills, into headwinds, or with heavy clothes, we must become more powerful runners.

One easy way to do this is by sprinting or running up and down bleachers. This trains your power. The key here is that you’re exerting more effort than usual to go a shorter distance than usual. Jumping also trains your power. I suggest jumping from the floor onto a solid box high enough to be just above your knees.

You might think that lifting weights can also increase your power. Be careful because this is not necessarily the case. Remember that power is a combination of force AND speed. If you lift a weight in a properly controlled manner, you might not be training your power because it’s moving too slow. Instead, you have to do what are called “power lifts”. These lifts take a significant amount of athleticism. You may have seen people doing them in the gym. They’re usually making jerky movements and seem really dangerous. That’s because they can be. These lifts are not necessary, but they can help train your power. If you want to learn I suggest finding and learning from a professional.

In order to be your fastest self, you must develop power in your running. Meditate on these things, and integrate them into your running when your spirit is ready.

If you want to start adding some power to your training, I recommend Strength Running.


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