What Are Strides in Running: Using Strides to Improve Form & Mechanics
Strides, also known as striders or stride-outs, are 100-meter accelerations typically done at the end of an easy run.
Strides take little time but can have a huge impact on a runner’s running efficiency and speed.
Personally, I have seen the positive impact of stride running after having to take several months off running for an injury.
When I returned, I had imperfect running form due to muscle groups compensating for my injured hamstring. After a couple of weeks of running strides, my gait regulated, and I once again was able to run with proper running form.
But the benefits of strides aren’t just for injured runners coming back after time off. In fact, ALL runners can reap the benefits of strides.
The benefits of strides
Strides work wonders for a runner’s mechanics and form, speed, and can actually prevent injuries.
How strides improve running form and mechanics:
Strides train runners to have a higher cadence which improves a runner’s turnover, hip extension, and stride length.
Strides do this by improving the communication between your brain, nerves, and muscles aka your neuromuscular system. By working nearly every muscle group, strides teach your body to work together more efficiently, improving running economy.
This translates into a more powerful and faster stride.
How strides make you run faster:
Strides make you have a more efficient gait with less wasted energy. Improved efficiency equals faster running. Strides also wake up fast-twitch muscles, making them more ready to work when you hit the ground.
Practicing strides while you are fresh teaches your body how to run with good form—even when tired in a race!
How strides improve training:
Strides help to metabolically prepare a runner’s body for intense running. This makes them a fantastic bridge to faster workouts for beginner runners.
Strides also ease a runner’s mind into faster running, knowing they can do it and their bodies are ready!
How strides prevent injuries:
By improving running efficiency and eradicating unnecessary movement such as overstriding, strides can help prevent injuries—especially since a majority of running injuries are caused by improper form.
Strides also prepare the body for faster running ahead of a race or speed workout. They are a staple of experienced runners’ warm-up as they loosen up the muscles, joints, and tendons.
How to run strides
So, how do you run strides? Strides are a gradual acceleration in which you are only running at top speed for 10 seconds or less.
You run strides on a flat, straight surface the length of 100 meters (about a football field).
You begin with a jog, gradually accelerating to where you hit about 85 to 95 percent of your max speed in the middle for about 10 seconds (approximately mile pace), and then decelerate the remainder of the 100 meters to a stop.
Focus on controlling your body. Stand tall. Swing your arms by your sides. Have your feet under your body and your hips straight. Focus on a quick leg turnover.
Strides should not feel hard. If you are gasping for air, you are pushing too hard and have turned the stride into an anaerobic workout.
Try accelerating at a slower rate next time. Remember, you are only running really fast for about 10 seconds.
How long should strides take?
One stride will take runners about 20 to 30 seconds, depending on ability.
When a runner completes a stride, they should do a full rest of 60-90 seconds until they are fully recovered and able to do another stride with perfect form.
The reason for waiting until you are fully recovered is that strides are not for cardiovascular fitness. They are for neuromuscular fitness in which form counts for everything. Shortening your recovery time provides zero benefits when running strides.
In fact, think of strides as a speed workout, not an aerobic one.
Strides versus sprints
It’s important to understand that strides are not sprints. Sprints are all-out running from the beginning and increase a runner’s risk of injury.
Conversely, strides are a gradual acceleration meant to improve running efficiency.
Strides versus intervals
Strides are not the same as intervals. Strides are only about 100 meters in length while interval workouts are 200 meters or longer.
Intervals begin at goal speed which is held throughout the duration of the work bout. Strides, conversely, begin at a gradual intensity, peaking in the middle, and then slowing down at the end.
Strides versus surges
Surges are similar to strides except they are embedded in a run, rather than done at the end.
Surges are also more of a controlled effort: strides speed up to mile pace, surges are about 3k to 5k effort. Surges are typically about 10 seconds longer than strides, lasting at least 30 seconds long.
You also do not stop running after a surge. Rather, you settle back into your easy running pace. Surges are essentially mini-fartleks.
How long should strides be in running?
A stride is about 100 meters in length or a football field. If you do not have the ability to measure the distance, aim to run for about 30 seconds on a flat surface.
How often should you run strides?
Ideally, runners will work up to doing strides at least 2 days a week:
Begin adding one day a week of strides after a run. Start with 4 strides. Do this for 2-4 weeks.
Then add another day of strides after an easy run. After 2-4 weeks of doing 2 days of 4 strides, you can increase to 6 strides.
When should runners do strides?
Runners should run strides after an easy run. Complete your run, recover, and then run strides, focusing on good form.
You can also do strides before a speed workout or race to prepare the legs for a faster pace. Run a 1–2-mile warm-up, do some dynamic stretching, and then do your strides.
Runners should not run strides until they have averaged about 15-20 miles per week for several months. They should also be able to run 30 minutes consecutively.
Should I run strides barefoot?
Yes, you can try running strides barefoot to further strengthen your feet and lower legs. Run barefoot strides on a soft, grassy surface.
Begin conservatively, trying out just 1-2 strides the first couple of times before adding more.
When should runners not do strides?
Runners should not do strides if they have not run consistently for several months. They should not do strides after a hard workout.
Runners should also not run strides on a treadmill as it changes your cadence and defeats the purpose of running a stride—to perfect form.
Runners who are recovering from an injury or are injury-prone should not attempt strides until they have been cleared to do so by a medical professional or running coach.
The addition of strides to a runner’s training plan is a surefire way to help you run faster with less effort. It’s one of the powerful and more effective ways to improve your running form and performance.
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