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What are Strides? Why & how should you have them in your training.

Updated: Apr 9

Unlock Your Speed:

The Essential Guide to Running Strides

Hey, fellow runners! It's Dayna here, ready to dive into a game-changing aspect of running that could significantly elevate your training regimen. Today, we're talking about strides—those quick, controlled bursts of running that can dramatically improve your speed, form, and overall running efficiency. Whether you're a seasoned marathoner or just lacing up for your first 5K, incorporating strides into your routine is a smart move. Let's explore why strides are a must-do for every runner and how to execute them correctly for maximum benefit.

The Power of Strides

Strides are essentially short accelerations where you gradually increase your speed to near maximum before gently slowing down. Typically ranging from 20 to 30 seconds in length, these powerful bursts are not just about speed; they're about honing your form and efficiency. Here's why every runner should be incorporating strides into their training:

  1. Improve Running Economy: Running strides helps fine-tune your mechanics, encouraging a more efficient running form. This efficiency translates into better performance over longer distances, as you'll use less energy to maintain your pace.

  2. Boost Speed and Power: Regularly practicing strides increases your leg turnover rate and enhances your ability to surge during races without fatigue setting in quickly. It's like adding a new gear to your running!

  3. Enhance Flexibility and Range of Motion: The accelerated pace of strides encourages a greater range of motion than your typical run, improving flexibility and reducing the risk of injuries.

  4. Seamless Transition to Faster Workouts: Strides serve as an excellent bridge between easy runs and more intense speed workouts. They get your body accustomed to faster paces in a controlled and manageable way.

How to Do Strides Correctly

Incorporating strides into your training is simple and effective. Here's how to get started:

  1. Timing: The best times to do strides are after a warm-up, before starting your main workout, or at the end of an easy run. This helps either prime your body for faster running or cool down with a focus on form after a steady effort.

  2. Frequency: Aim to include strides in your routine 2-3 times per week. This frequency allows you to reap the benefits without overtaxing your body.

  3. Execution: Begin at a jog, then gradually accelerate over about 20 seconds until you're running at about 85-95% of your maximum effort. Focus on maintaining good form—upright posture, relaxed shoulders, and quick, light steps. After reaching your peak speed, gently decelerate to a stop. Rest for 30-60 seconds, then repeat. Start with four strides and gradually increase to six or eight over time.

  4. Focus on Form: Use strides as an opportunity to concentrate on smooth, efficient running form. Imagine yourself running over hot coals—you want quick, light steps without excessive vertical bounce.

Stride Your Way to Success

  1. Choose the Right Surface: Ideally, perform your strides on a flat, smooth surface that mimics your race or regular running terrain. A grass field, track, or even a straight, flat stretch of road works well. The key is to find a surface that allows you to focus on form without the risk of tripping or uneven impact. (If you are local, I often have my athletes end their easy runs at Sullivan park. So they can use the soccer field to do a few strides on.)

  2. Mind Your Footwear: While you can do strides in your regular running shoes, consider using your racing flats or lighter training shoes if you have them. This can provide a more responsive feel and mimic race day conditions more closely.

  3. Use Visual Markers: If you struggle with pacing your acceleration and deceleration during strides, use visual markers like light posts or trees spaced approximately 100 meters apart. Start accelerating at the first marker and aim to reach your peak speed by the time you hit the middle marker, then begin to decelerate towards the last one.

  4. Incorporate Arm Action: Your arms play a crucial role in your running mechanics, especially at higher speeds. Use strides to practice driving your arms back and forth (elbow bad guy behind you) in a controlled manner, keeping them at a 90-degree angle. Proper arm action can significantly improve your overall running efficiency.

  5. Breath Control: Focus on maintaining controlled, rhythmic breathing during your strides. This practice helps ensure you're not holding your breath or hyperventilating as you accelerate, which can be common issues when runners push their pace.

  6. Stay Relaxed: One of the main goals of strides is to improve your speed and form while staying relaxed. Pay attention to areas of tension in your body—shoulders, jaw, hands—and consciously relax these areas. Running fast doesn't mean running tense.

  7. Progressive Loading: As you become more comfortable and efficient with strides, consider adding slight variations to challenge yourself further. For example, performing strides uphill can increase power and strength, while downhill strides (done cautiously) can improve leg turnover and speed.

  8. Recovery: Even though strides are short and are followed by recovery periods, don't underestimate the importance of hydration and nutrition. Proper recovery practices ensure you can perform strides effectively without risking overuse injuries or fatigue.

  9. Listen to Your Body: As with any form of training, it's crucial to listen to your body. If you're feeling particularly fatigued or sore, it might be best to skip the strides for that day. The goal is to enhance your training, not hinder it with potential injury.

  10. Record and Reflect: Keep a training log that includes your strides. Note how you felt, what you focused on, and any improvements you observe over time. This reflection can be incredibly valuable for understanding what works best for you and how strides contribute to your overall running progress.

Remember, strides are about quality, not quantity.

Focus on executing each one with intention and attention to form, and you'll soon see the positive impact on your running performance and enjoyment.

Strides are a simple yet incredibly effective tool in your running arsenal. By dedicating just a few minutes to strides a couple of times a week, you can unlock improvements in speed, efficiency, and form that translate into all areas of your running.

So next time you're out for an easy run, finish strong with a few strides, and feel the difference they make.

Happy running, and remember—every step is a step towards a better, faster you!

Keep pushing, keep striving, and let's make every run count!

Run happy!


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