The situation: You’re churning through your training plan, checking off days, feeling like a boss. You know how to crush a long run; you really know how to crush a rest day; and you’ve even got some of those interval workouts figured out. But then, you come across a day that calls for “strides” on your training plan, and you’re left scratching your head instead of smashing another workout. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s the rundown on running strides.
What Are Strides?
A stride, also known as a pick-up or a strider, is an easy-to-perform running drill that improves your form and mechanics. Think of them as short accelerations during which you over-exaggerate your running form. They are quite flexible and can be plugged into your regimen after easy runs to work on form, used to warm up before speed workouts or races, or used as a speed workout for new runners.
Why Should Try Running Strides?
The ultimate goal of running strides is to increase your stride length while maintaining a quick turnover, or cadence. Although they may sound tricky or complicated, they really aren’t. In layman’s terms, running strides is like going from running easy to increasing your speed by lengthening your stride for about 15 seconds and then slowing your speed and walking back to recover and catch your breath.
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How to Run Strides
First, find a predictably flat surface (runway) that is long enough to run 30 seconds at speed (about 250 to 300 feet for most). If you have access to a track, that’s a great place to start, but if not, look for a dead-end street away from traffic or even a long patch of grass in a local park.
If you’re running strides before a speed workout or race, make sure to warm up first with 3 to 5 minutes of walking and 5 to 10 minutes of easy-paced running. For races, time the strides so you complete them a few minutes prior to the start of the race. If you’re running strides at the end of an easy run, walk it out for a few minutes to bring your heart rate down and calm your breathing before you start the drill. If strides are new in your running regimen, start with a total of 4 and slowly build to 6 to 8 over time.
Start the stride by running easy, focusing on a short, quick stride, and then gradually increase your speed by lengthening your stride. Keep your torso tall and relaxed. It should feel like a controlled fast pace rather than a sprint. When you reach three quarters into the runway distance, gradually decelerate by shortening your stride until you come to a walk. If you’re running by time, the total stride should be around 30 seconds (i.e. run easy for 10 seconds, increase stride length for 15 seconds, and decelerate for 5 seconds). Walk back to the starting point to recover and catch your breath and repeat the stride again.
Strides can also be woven into the middle of an easy run, which is a great strategy for new runners with base mileage to learn mechanics and how to run faster, but strides are a great training tool for all runners from beginners to expert runners. Weave them in to your training at least once a week to dial in your form.