Strides are one of those classic running training techniques that everyone has a slightly different take on. At risk of adding to the confusion I’m going to put forward a few thoughts about how you might use strides as a recreational runner as compared to the traditional approaches used by faster, more competitive athletes.
While there’s lots of different ways to go about doing some strides there’s no doubt that whether you are a tortoise or a hare the concept of strides will be beneficial. The key is to keep it all in perspective and relative to your physical capabilities and fitness levels.
Strides – what are they?
A stride is a smooth acceleration from jogging to mile race pace done over 60 to 100 meters. So this means even for competitive athletes strides are not done flat-out or sprinting. For the recreational runner a stride can be done over 30 – 60 meters and at a faster pace than you’d normally run at.
Again there’s no need to sprint but if you gradually accelerate up to the speed that you think you could hold for 90 seconds then you’re probably not far off the mark. Normally you would accelerate up to a pace and then gradually ease down so the whole process is as smooth as possible.
For more serious athletes a stride can be done at about your mile to 5km race pace. But they should be done with the same ease in and ease down approach. For example, one way of executing a stride could be to: gradually accelerate up to race speed over 30 meters, hold for 30, then ease down for 30. It’s a good idea to walk or very slowly jog back between strides so you can focus on good technique when you begin the next one.
Why would you do strides?
Strides can be used to practice good technique, however they are also just a great way to dynamically warm-up before a more demanding running session.
For the weekend warrior doing some strides before and after your regular jogs could well be all the “speed work” that you have time for or need to do.
The benefit of doing some faster running is multifaceted: you can recruit muscle fibers, stretch your body through a larger range of motion and generally condition your body to move a little quicker.
If you’re a slower runner, doing some strides can be a great way to practice using a stronger running pattern where you put a bit more force and bounce into your stride.
When to do strides as part of a training session?
For the competitive track athletes doing some strides is usually a habitual part of a structured warm-up. So assuming you’re doing a track session you might jog around for a mile or two to get warm then consider getting stuck into some running technique drills.
Back in my youth, after a light jog I would have been attempting to pull my hamstrings off the bone on the permanent water jump at the local track, but theses days I’d forgo static stretching for doing some drills and possibly jumping into a few lunges to stretch my hip flexors.
After completing this routine would be the perfect time to roll through 4 – 6 strides and then get stuck into the day’s track session.
How fast, and do you need to be fast?
How long is a piece of string? The best answer is probably, it depends. Are you doing the strides in preparation for a track session, a race, or going through the motions at the end of a long run? Adjust your pace accordingly.
Many runners believe strides are the province of the elite, but nothing could be further from the truth. For a recreational runner that isn’t burning up the track a stride can be your speed training session. Or a stride can be your technique training where you run short efforts of 30 – 60 meters. Once you get past the feeling that you should be sprinting, your personal stride pace can be just a few gears faster than your normal running pace.
Doing strides is not about becoming exhausted or losing your breath, so if you’re starting to heave then you’re going too fast, too far or have done too many.
How many strides should you do?
4 – 6 strides is ample, but even two or three easy strides at the end of a long run can be of benefit.
Other uses of strides
You can use strides flexibility and often during your running training. Some ideas that you can try include:
- After easy runs during the early phases of your training base.
- After long runs to stretch out the body and shake off slow.
- In the middle of an easy or long run – why not?
- On hills – use a moderate, but short hill 30 – 50 meters to do some strides up.
- As running technique training – get a coach or a friend to watch and video your form.
Talking strides with Coach Mark Gorski
Mark and I chat about the whys and wherefores of strides in running.
More reading on strides
Check out Coach Jay Johnson’s overview of strides for competitive athletes:
- How Should I Run Strides – An overview
- How Should I Run Strides – High School Athletes, Summer Training and XC
Words and images by Brian Martin