I think it is important to focus on increasing your stride rate while running, as well as to do the sort of strength and flexibility conditioning and efficiency drills that are conducive to a faster turnover. It seems to me that unless you’re consciously trying to run differently, you’ll continue to run your usual way. Eventually, you’ll adopt that different way of running and no longer will have to to think about it.
Some findings suggest that consciously quickening your turnover can make you faster. Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article by Gina Kolata, published August 10, 2004, along those lines (an excellent article overall, by the way, though no longer available for free from the NYT’s Web site):
Exercise physiologists are focusing on ways to make runners more efficient. They speculate that a number of factors might determine efficiency, and that some, like the biochemistry of the runner’s muscles or the structure of the runner’s body, are simply innate. But one factor, stride length, might be amenable to change.
About 20 percent of the competitive runners that Dr. [Don] Morgan [an exercise physiologist and recreational runner at Middle Tennessee State University] and his colleagues tested were overstriding, or taking steps too large for maximum efficiency. None were taking steps that were too small. The researchers set out to train the overstriders to take shorter steps.
For three weeks, five times a week, the athletes ran on treadmills at the physiology lab, their pace set by the beat of a metronome. That rhythm forced the runners to shorten their strides, and, as a consequence, they ran about 3 percent faster.