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Why You Need To Run Strides

Posted by: on February, 2 2016

Found on MapMyRun.com

If strides aren’t a part of your weekly running routine, you’re missing out.

Strides are a simple and effective way to introduce your body to speed work, loosen up after an easy run and prepare for a challenging workout. They require minimal effort above and beyond your regular training but can provide a host of benefits.

Two men on an early morning run.

Two men on an early morning run.

You can’t beat that! So let’s look at the specifics.

What Are Strides?

Strides are simply accelerations that are usually 100 meters in length. Each stride is run at about 95% of your maximum effort, which is approximately the pace you could hold for a mile. For most runners, each stride takes 20–30 seconds.

When performing strides, you want to ease into your faster pace over the first five seconds. Don’t go all out immediately like a horse bolting onto a racetrack! Focus on good form, and accelerate to about 95% of maximum speed. Hold that for only 2–3 seconds, then slow to a walk over the last five seconds.

Start with four repetitions, and allow 60–90 seconds of walking recovery between each stride. After 3–4 weeks of performing strides regularly, you can increase to six reps. Strides don’t take very long, so they’re an exceptionally valuable tool for busy runners.

Good form is essential to getting the most out of running strides. Run tall with good posture and a slight forward lean from the ankles. Stay relaxed and focused, and try to run without any tension in your upper body.

You’ll tend to land more on your midfoot or forefoot rather than your heels when running faster, so you shouldn’t obsess over your foot strike. Keep your feet moving, and focus on quick turnover. Below, you can watch a demonstration of what strides look like in action:

When Should I Run Strides?

Strides can be used in several different ways. If you have only been running easy mileage but are looking to begin some speed work, strides can be a simple and safe introduction to faster running. Strides can be used regularly at the end of easy runs to pick up the pace, have fun and loosen up after miles of running at the same steady effort.

Strides are also an excellent way to prepare your body for a harder workout or a race. They help your body transition from a slower pace to faster running. When used in these situations, strides are most effective at the end of your warmup, just prior to the start of your race or workout.

Where Should I Run Strides?

The beauty of strides is that they can be run just about anywhere. A flat, even surface is best so you can focus on speed and form rather than worrying about tripping on rocks or a root-filled trail. Roads and sidewalks work well, as do packed gravel trails or a smooth single track. Strides can also be run on turf, a grassy field or even in your backyard if you have enough space.

Running strides on a track is an obvious choice if you are using them to prepare for a track workout. This also will give you a better sense of the 100-meter distance if that number feels like a vague concept to you. On a traditional track, 100 meters is the length of one straight side.

If you have access to a smooth grassy field or the synthetic turf infield of a track, strides can also be run barefoot to help increase foot and leg strength. Always err on the side of caution with these — pick your surface carefully, and incorporate barefoot strides very gradually!

If you’re interested in barefoot running, this is a safe and effective way to try it out and gain some of the benefits with minimal risk of running injuries.

Why Are Strides Beneficial?

Whether it’s your offseason or you’re training for a specific race, strides are an excellent way to loosen up after an easy run or prepare your body to run faster. If you haven’t run structured speed workouts, they help you transition safely to faster workouts.

Because strides encourage you to run fast for short periods of time, they help reinforce proper running form without creating an overwhelming amount of fatigue. They prepare you to run faster, both mentally and physically.

Strides can also help improve neuromuscular coordination, which means that your brain can recruit muscle groups to perform specific tasks more efficiently; in this case, that task is running faster with less effort, which always leads to faster race times!

Strides are an effective tool that should be used year-round by all runners. If you aren’t running strides yet, it’s time to make them part of your regular routine!

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Jason Fitzgerald
Jason Fitzgerald is the head coach at Strength Running, one of the web’s largest coaching sites for runners. He is a 2:39 marathoner and USA Track & Field–certified coach; his passion is helping runners set monster personal bests.