How Strides Can Help You Run Faster
Strides are 20 to 35 second sprints at your mile race pace, or roughly 85 to 95% effort. Typically, they are assigned to a running schedule after an easy recovery run or before a big workout or race.
Strides are also used as part of the warm-up process to help get the blood flowing to your legs and your heart rate elevated. This article will focus on how to use strides after easy runs. To learn how to implement strides into your warm-up, read my how to warm-up article.
How to do Strides
Step 1: Complete your scheduled run on your schedule at an easy pace. Strides are completed after your run, not during.
Step 2: After your run, you should stretch lightly for 3-5 minutes. Focus on anything that was tight during your run, or that is a problem area for you.
Step 3: Begin your stride by easing into a fast pace over the first 5 seconds. It is important to ease into the pace, and not explode out of the gait to prevent injury.
Step 4: After 5 seconds, you should have reached full speed. Begin to focus on staying relaxed and letting your body do the work. Keep a relaxed face, make sure your arms aren’t flailing, and work on landing on your midfoot (closer to your toes), not your heel. Continue to stay relaxed at your top end speed and gradually, over the last 5 seconds slow yourself to a stop.
Step 5: Take a full recovery between each stride, which should be about 2 minutes. You can stop to catch your breath, walk, or slowly jog in place. The purpose of strides is not to get in a hard workout or to have you breathing hard. Strides are designed to work on speed and mechanics, so starting your next stride winded or before you are fully recovered is detrimental to the training adaptations.
What are the benefits of strides?
Strides have many benefits and I use them in a multitude of fashions depending on what I am trying to accomplish with each runner.
- 1. Strides help you work on your mechanics in short increments. It’s easy to focus on form when you’re only running for 20 to 30 seconds and you’re not overly tired. Not only does it help you create mental cues to stay on your toes and feel relaxed, but it makes the process more natural for the body during the race.
- 2. As distance runners, we spend most of our time running at slower speeds to build our aerobic systems or work on our threshold. Strides offer you a great way to inject some speed work into your training plan without having to sacrifice a whole day of training. Just a few strides a couple of days a week will inject some “get down speed” into your legs.
- 3. Strides are a great pre-curser to faster, more rigorous training. For many of my beginner runners, before they start doing any workouts, I assign them strides. Because they may not be used to going fast or doing speed work, strides are a gentle introduction for the body and help you get used to the feeling of running faster.
- 4. Finally, strides can serve as a great way to stretch out the legs after an easy session. Often times, especially in marathon training, the legs can get stale with the mileage and tempo runs. Strides help break up the monotony and add a little spice to the training and your legs. A few stride sessions are usually enough to get your marathon weary legs feeling fresh again.