BY EOIN EVERARD
Strides – or accelerations – are a staple of almost every secondary school, university, and professional running team. Whether you’re an 800m specialist, cross country runner, or an aspiring marathoner, strides are a fundamental building block of speed and coordination. But the majority of recreational runners never do them despite a host of benefits. This is fascinating because they only take a few minutes, help you dramatically improve your training, and they can be done anywhere.
So, what exactly are strides?
Strides are also known as striders, stride-outs, or accelerations.
They’re about 70m-100m accelerations where you start at a jog, build to about 90% of your max speed, and then gradually slow to a stop. One stride should take you about 10-15 seconds depending on your ability. You can start with four strides and after 3-4 weeks increase that to six. Take about 60-90 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 benefit by shortening the recovery period! In fact, it’s best to think of strides as a speed development workout. The goal is not aerobic development, endurance, or getting in “a good workout.” Rather, it’s turnover and building comfort at high speeds.
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. Fast does not always mean hard. Always remember to stay relaxed during a stride – at no point should you be straining, struggling, or racing.
Where should I be running strides?
You can run them anywhere! I’ve done them in parking lots (be careful…), paths, roads, fields, or on the track. If your garden is big enough you can even do them there. All you need is a clear place to run that’s about 100 meters in length. If you’re a track athlete or you like racing in spikes or racing flats, strides with your racing shoes can serve as a useful “bridge” between running full-time in training shoes and more aggressive racers. Just finish your run, change shoes, and start striding out!
When should I run strides?
Strides are best incorporated in two different situations:
After an easy or base run. In this scenario, think of strides as a dynamic stretch. They help increase your range of motion, work on your turnover, and subtly improve your form. By shaking 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. Before a workout or race. Here, strides prepare 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. It’s rare to change how a stride is executed.
But rules are meant to be broken! If you’re preparing for a very short, fast race like a mile on the track or 800m, you may want to do shorter, faster strides. They’ll do a better job of opening up your range of motion and metabolically priming you for running really fast.
And the opposite holds true as well: if you’re running a marathon, a few longer, slower strides can help you warm up properly. These can be embedded in a 5-10 minute pre-marathon warm up run.
Why should I be running strides?
This is like answering the question, “Why should I do a long run?” The benefits are so profound that
I’m not sure where to start! But here’s a short list to get you excited about running strides:
They help you loosen up after a slow distance run. Strides serve as a transition to faster workouts – especially for beginners learning how to start running, they increase your running economy by reinforcing proper running form (i.e., they make you more efficient)
They metabolically prepare you to run fast before a race or hard workout AND they only take a few minutes.
Many runners report that they’re able to run faster (with less effort) on their distance runs after several weeks of running consistent strides. Give them a try for 4 weeks and let me know how you feel!