Running strides can be a confusing topic in the running vocabulary. The singular term “stride” is usually used to refer to the length of your step in relation to your running form. However, when used int he plural form, “strides” are also used to reference a type of running speed workout.
What are strides?
When someone says that they are running strides, they are referring to a structured type of running. Strides are also commonly referred to as accelerations or stride-outs.
Running strides are short accelerations that take you from a very slow, easy pace to your maximum effort within just a few seconds. Strides usually last only about 100m in distance and take less than 30 seconds to complete.
When running a stride, the runner begins at either a slow, easy jog. This pace quickly increases as the runner accelerates to about 90-100% their maximum speed. This max speed is only maintained for a few seconds, and then the runner quickly slows again to return to their easy jog.
Many beginner runners choose to incorporate strides into their longer, easy runs, while some others choose to complete them as a separate workout by themselves. Since they are so short in duration, running strides can be very versatile during a training season.
Running Strides vs. Intervals
While strides may sound fairly similar in structure to intervals, there are a few key differences.
Running strides are usually significantly shorter in length than any interval during a speed workout. Strides usually last around 100 meters in length, while interval workouts typically utilize distances of 400 meters and longer.
Intervals usually start and end at the goal speed, while strides begin from a slow, easy pace. Incorporating strides into a longer, easy run is fairly easy since you are able to begin right from your easy run pace and accelerate for such a short period of time.
Running interval workouts are typically much more structured. Intervals usually require a specific distance or time for recovery, wait to begin the interval until you have reached the faster pace, and can vary in terms of repetitions or distances for each interval.
If you are looking for a simple way to incorporate more speed in your training, or are hoping to get started with some straightforward speed workouts, running strides are a great choice.
Strides are an excellent way for beginners to get acclimated to running faster paces, as well as for seasoned runners to include regular bits of speed and promote proper running form during distance training.
How to Run Strides
Although the concept is fairly straightforward, there are a few things you should keep in mind as you begin running strides.
To properly run strides, you’ll first want to be sure you have a fairly even surface to use for your run. This could be outside on a track, the sidewalk, a local trail or even a parking lot. Running strides can easily be completed on the treadmill as well, with a slow running recovery in between as opposed to a walk.
Start with a warm up.
Before completing any running strides, you’ll want to be sure to warm up at a slow, easy pace for at least 3-5 minutes. The warm up and cool down can be lengthened to suit your overall training needs, but be sure it is at least 3 or so minutes before your first stride.
Begin with just 3-4 strides.
When you are just beginning, it’s a good idea to start off with just 3-4 strides at a time. As you get more comfortable running strides, you’ll be able to work your way up to 6-10 repeats.
Quickly accelerate to maximum speed.
Begin your stride at your slow easy pace, and then quickly accelerate as fast as possible until you reach maximum speed. Hold this speed for 2-5 seconds, or until you reach about ¾ of your total distance, and then decelerate until you are back to your original slow, easy pace.
Walk or stand to rest in between each stride.
After your stride, take about 60-120 seconds to either walk or stand as a recovery. Attempting to shorten this recovery time will likely have no physical benefits in relation to what you gain from running strides, so be sure to take as much time as you need.
Focus on quick, short steps.
Once you have completed a brief recovery period, begin your next stride. While you are running a stride, focus on using short, quick steps to maintain optimal running form.
When to Do Running Strides
One of the major advantages to running strides is that they can be incorporated into just about any training plan. Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned runner, training for a 5k or marathon, outdoors on the track or inside on the treadmill – strides can easily be added to your training.
A great way to try running strides is to add them to a slow, easy run during the week. Try adding 3 strides to the middle of your mid-week easy run. As your body begins to adjust to the effort, increase the number of strides you complete mid-run.
Another beneficial time to run strides is right before a race or hard workout. Completing just a few strides helps get your legs used to harder efforts, promotes a faster turnover and helps your body warm up quickly for the miles ahead.
One final time to consider running strides is after a workout or regular training run. Strides help shake out the muscles and serve as a great cool down from harder efforts.
The Benefits of Running Strides
There are many benefits of strides, even in just the few minutes it takes to complete them. This versatile technique can help improve your running in many different ways. Here are just a few of the many benefits of running strides.
- They only take a few minutes to complete!
- Serve as a great precursor to harder workouts for beginners
- Help loosen the muscles after a long distance run
- Encourage proper running form when the body might be getting tired
- Provide a warm up for harder efforts like races and workouts
- Promote an efficient running economy and metabolism
- Help mentally and physically prepare your body to run fast
- Practice for increasing turnover and getting the legs moving
- Provides variety in distance training that is often spent at slower paces
Running strides is a versatile technique that can be implemented into just about any training plan – whether you’re a beginner or seasoned runner. Strides can be helpful in improving speed over time and teaching your body to run faster.
Even better yet, you can add them to just about any of your regular, easy runs.
Try running a few strides in your training each week and see how your body adapts over time. You might be surprised what even just a few minutes of work each week can do for your training.