A top question I get is, “What are strides, why are they important, and how do I do them?” So I thought, I would answer all three of those questions today, because strides are one of the most important drills that should be a part of every runner’s training plan. Here’s a quick answer guide for one of the most essential running drills, and of course an explanation on how to perform strides.
Strides – AKA accelerations – are a staple of just about every high school and university track team. However, the majority of recreational runners never do them despite a long list of benefits. What makes this shocking is that it only takes a couple of minutes to knock out some stride after a run. In turn, this helps improve your training and best of all they can be done anywhere – not just on a track.
What are Strides?
Strides are roughly 100m accelerations where you start at a jog, build to roughly 95% of your max speed, and then gradually slow to a stop. A single stride should take around 20-30 seconds.
To begin, start with four strides and after 3-4 weeks increase 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 benefits by shortening the recovery period! So make sure that you’ve recovered properly before moving on.
Also, 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. Remember to stay relaxed during a stride – at no point should you be straining or racing.
Where Should I be Running Strides?
Anywhere! I’ve done them in parking lots (be careful!), sidewalks, roads, fields, and of course 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?
There are two situations that they are best used:
#1: After an easy or base run
In this scenario, think of strides like a dynamic stretch. They’re helping to increase your range of motion, increase your turnover, and subtly improving your form. By helping shake 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.
#2 Before a workout or race
In this case, strides are preparing 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. However, if you’re preparing for a very short, fast race like a mile on the track, you might want to do shorter, faster stride. The opposite holds true as well: if you’re running a half or full marathon, a few longer, slower strides can help you warm up properly.
Why Should I be Running Strides?
Well… there’s a lot of reasons why they should be in your training plan.
- They help you loosen up after a slow distance run
- Serve as a transition to faster workouts – especially for beginners learning how to start running
- Increase your running economy by reinforcing proper 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
Many runners say they’re able to run faster (with less effort) on their distance runs after adding strides in their training regime after a few weeks. Give them a try for 4 weeks, and let me know how you feel!
Here’s a graph showing you a rough idea of how your effort should look when running strides:
Most of the runners I’ve helped 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.
Ally Gonzales is the founder & editor-in-chief of RunningSoleGirl. Along with blogging she is also juggling attending college and majoring in Exercise and Sports Science with a Sports Management minor.