What are strides? I get this question ALL THE TIME so I thought it would be helpful to explain exactly what they are and how to use them in your training.
I also surveyed runners on Twitter – you can follow me @JasonFitz1 – to see if they ran strides. I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves them so much!
Strides – or accelerations – are a staple of almost every high school and university track team. But the majority of recreational runners never do them despite a host of benefits.
This is fascinating because they only take a few minutes, help you dramatically improve your training, and they can be done anywhere.
Here’s an overview:
What are strides?
Strides are about 100m accelerations where you start at a jog, build to about 95% of your max speed, and then gradually slow to a stop. One stride should take you about 20-30 seconds.
You can start with four strides and after 3-4 weeks increase that to six. Take about 45-90 seconds of walking or standing in between each stride to catch your breath. Running strides is not an aerobic workout so don’t rush them – you get zero additional benefit by shortening the recovery period!
Keep in mind that strides are very short and you’re only running really fast for a few seconds, so they shouldn’t be too difficult. Always remember to stay relaxed during a stride – at no point should you be straining or racing.
Where should I be running strides?
You can run them anywhere! I’ve done them in parking lots (be careful…), sidewalks, roads, fields, or on the track. If your yard is big enough you can even do them there.
My favorite way to intelligently use barefoot running in a training plan is to incorporate barefoot strides 1-2 times per week. It’s best to do these on a synthetic turf track where the surface is predictable, plush, and free of debris.
When should I run strides?
Strides are best incorporated in two different situations:
- After an easy or base run. In this scenario, think of strides as a dynamic stretch. They help increase your range of motion, work on your turnover, and subtly improve your form. By shaking out some of the tightness you might feel after miles of running at the same pace, strides can help you feel better for your next run.
- Before a workout or race. Here, strides prepare your body to run fast. They serve as your transition to sustained, harder running.
In either situation, strides should be run at about the same distance and pace. But if you’re preparing for a very short, fast race like a mile on the track, you may want to do shorter, faster strides. And the opposite holds true as well: if you’re running a marathon, a few longer, slower strides can help you warm up properly.
Why should I be running strides?
There’s a lot of reasons why you need to be running strides regularly!
- They help you loosen up after a slow distance run.
- Strides serve as a transition to faster workouts – especially for beginners learning how to start running
- They increase your running economy by reinforcing proper running form (i.e., they make you more efficient)
- When done barefoot, they develop foot and lower leg strength with a small risk of injury.
- They prepare you to run fast before a race or hard workout.
- They only take a few minutes.
This graph shows you a rough outline of how your effort should look when running strides:
Most of the runners I coach tell me that they’ve learned to love strides and they make them feel better. Since they’re short, strides don’t require too much effort and they’re actually easy for most people.
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