If you have been running for a while you’ve probably heard of strides from some of your fellow runners. While many of us have heard of strides, many of us are not adding them into our running program. Skipping this key running dill might be holding you back from hitting a new personal record. Just like flossing your teeth, strides provide huge benefits but most of us skip them for some reason. In this article I will break down why you should be adding strides to your workouts and also give you some tips on how to do them correctly.
Here’s my take on how strides can help your running.
Introduction to speed work
Doing strides is a great way to get the body ready to hit the track for speed work without causing injuries. If you’re new to running or coming off a base building cycle you should do a few weeks with strides added before hitting the track. Hitting the track too soon can overwork the body causing an injury which will prevent you from hitting your goals.
Side note: If you’re an experienced runner, doing strides in the offseason can help you keep your speed for a fast mile or 5k time during a base building block.
Improve running form
The purpose of doing strides is to improve running form. This is done in a few ways. One is because while you’re doing your strides you’re keeping the length of the interval very short allowing you to hold on to good form while running fast. Two, the point of running strides is to focus on good running form while going fast, things like getting your arms pumping, keeping your knees up and staying on the balls of your feet. Three, you run fast without getting tired. The 15-30 second length of the interval will allow you to run fast without getting out of breath which will help you keep proper form allowing you to focus on good form. Because of the short duration, fast pace and lack of fatigue you will be able to focus on improving form while running and this will translate into better form on race day.
Extra speed workout
Many runners think that you get fast by running fast. If you do too much speed work in a training program it will cause you to burnout before you get to race day leaving you with dead legs and overcooked. When designing a plan for your race you should focus on doing most of your work at a low heart rate where you can easily carry on a conversation. Squeezing in strides into your plan will give you a hidden speed workout without leaving you fatigued like other speed workouts. I love strides at the end of easy runs because you can get the benefits of speed training without getting burnt out. That little extra speed work can make a measurable difference when you line up on race day.
Improves running economy
As stated before, doing strides can improve running form. Improving the skill of running helps improve running economy. What is running economy? “Running economy (RE) measures runners’ energy utilization when running at an aerobic intensity, and many physiological and biomechanical factors contribute to it. Oxygen consumption (VO2) is the most direct method for measuring running economy, as the exchange of gases in the body, specifically oxygen and carbon dioxide, closely reflects energy metabolism. Those who are able to consume less oxygen while running at a given velocity are said to have a better running economy.”
The way strides help to improve running economy is that it stimulates the nervous system and helps improve the biomechanical side of running. The side that isn’t impacted as much is improvement in VO2 max because the heart rate stays low compared to other types of speedwork. Another system that is not challenged during strides is the lactate threshold. This is good because the goal of strides is to improve the skill of running fast without taxing the system.
Breaks up sore legs
Breaking up tight or sore legs is my favorite benefit of running strides. Usually strides are added to the end of an easy run that lands a day after a tempo run or long run. The legs can feel sluggish and tired after these types of runs. Strides can help break up the soreness and tightness in the legs. This leaves you ready for a hard workout the next day. In the middle of a marathon training cycle many of us have felt the effects of marathon legs which feels like a shuffle. Doing strides is a great way to break up the marathon shuffle and add pop to your legs a day before a hard workout.
How and when to do strides
Strides should be done a day before a workout session, before a track session after the warm up and a day before a long run. Strides should be done near maximal effort but you shouldn’t hit full effort until you’re half way through the stride. Unlike sprints you shouldn’t aim to go all out from the start of the stride. Strides should only last about 15-30 seconds with about 60 seconds rest between strides. After easy runs aim for 4-10 strides and 2-4 strides before a track session. The goal before a track session is to get the nervous system warmed up before the workout. Only do strides after easy runs 2 times per week.
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