Strides are one of the worst kept secrets in the sport of running. But, many runners don’t use them. If you aren’t running strides after your easy workouts, you’re missing out big time! Strides are a quick and easy way to unlock your speed and improve your running efficiency.
How to Run Strides
When I have running questions, I often look to Jack Daniels for the answers. No, not the bottle, the legendary coach and author of Daniel’s Running Formula. Here’s what Jack says about strides:
“Strides are fast runs that last about 20 seconds each and are run at a subjective feeling that approximates Rep-pace running or roughly the pace you would race at for 1,500 meters or 1 mile. Take 60 seconds rest between strides, or enough time to feel light and quick on each stride. Strides are not meant to be “sprints. The purpose of strides is to improve your speed and running economy. By practicing Rep paced running your body learns to run more relaxed and comfortable at the race pace you’re training for.” – Coach Jack Daniels, Run SMART Project
Strides can be done before races to wake up the legs, or after easy runs. Find a level grassy field if you can, or even one with a slight decline. Running downhill is a great way to increase turnover rate through overspeed training. Look for an area that will allow you to run about 100m in distance. A soccer field is just about perfect.
Start your stride at an easy pace and gradually increase your speed until your reach your “fast” pace before gradually slowing down again. Rest for 60 seconds, and repeat. (Seriously, rest for 60 to 90 seconds. This isn’t an aerobic workout, you’ve already done that part.) If you’re just beginning to add strides to your workouts, you can do 3-5 reps after your regular training runs 2-3 times per week.
Benefits of Running Strides
Running strides before a race or a hard effort is a great way to prepare your body. Strides will force blood into your working muscles, wake up your legs, and prepare your mind for the race ahead. Watch the top talent at your next race, and I guarantee you’ll see them doing strides before the gun goes off.
Adding strides to the end of an easy run will improve your speed by through muscle memory and adaptation. When you need a burst of speed in your next race, your legs will know exactly what to do. All those repetitions will improve muscular coordination, turnover speed, and boost your confidence. For beginning runners, strides provide a solid foundation for future speed work.
Strides for Distance Runners
Distance runners often find themselves stuck in a rut where their performance plateaus and they feel like they’re no longer making progress. Much of this can be attributed to a stale training program of long runs day after day. Runners need to mix it up and stress their bodies in different ways to get the greatest return from their training efforts. Strides can help.
Strides are an easy way to strengthen fast-twitch muscle fibers and improve running form. When we run faster, we usually run more efficiently. After a cycle of marathon training, many runners pick up some bad habits: arm swings, hunching, etc. Adding strides can help you break those bad habits.