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Running Strides – How They Can Improve Your Running

If you’re looking to make yourself a better runner, you should consider adding strides to your routine. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about strides (or striders as they are sometimes called).

We’ll discuss what they are, some benefits of running strides, how you should run them, and when to do them.

By the end, you’ll be a pro at running strides and want to dash out the door to start including them in your workout.

What are Running Strides?

Strides is just a fancy word for accelerations. They are also sometimes called striders, and are used by running teams of all levels—high school, college, and professional—across the country.

If you want to build speed and coordination, you need to start including strides into your runs.

Even though they are very popular for the pros and elites, the average amateur runner may have never even heard of them. It’s also likely they are not included in your running routine.

Practically, they are short bursts of speed that you can sustain for a very short duration of time. It’s not a full-on sprint, though. They are short distances of about 50-100 meters, run at a pace you could sustain for about 2 minutes.

What are the Benefits of Running Strides?

While the most obvious benefit of running strides is improving your running economy, there are also some other benefits you might not expect.

Allows You to Focus on Your Form

As runners, we all know how important our running form is. Sometimes it can be hard to concentrate on making sure that we’re doing everything properly when we’re powering through a hard workout or a long run.

Strides provide the perfect opportunity to make sure that your running form is up to par. You only have to focus on it for 10-30 seconds, and you have a trigger to start thinking about your form: accelerating to begin your stride.

This focus can come in handy race day when you’re so close to the finish line. Teaching your body to push hard for a short period of time will allow you to cross the finish line going as fast as you can, because you’ve trained your body to do that.

Great Way to Get Started on Speedwork

If you’re new to running or new to speedwork, it can be daunting to think of running ¼ mile, ½ mile, or even mile intervals. But you don’t have to do that with strides. It’s just 20-30 seconds of hard running.

This can be a way for you to introduce your body to speedwork and to slowly work up to doing sprints and intervals, which you’ll have to sustain for a longer period of time.

In other words, strides teach you to run faster, and you can’t talk yourself out of it because it’s only for 30 seconds!

Good Way to Stretch Out Your Legs

When you’ve completed a slow long run, strides are a great way to stretch out your legs and loosen up. This is why you’ll want to add your strides near the end of a long run. You’ll get rid of the monotony and give your body a little bit more to do.

Allows You to Add in Speedwork Into Your Long Runs

If you’re someone who loves to run long distances, then you might dread the days that you should really do speedwork. If that’s you, then strides are a great option because you are able to add some speedwork into your training.

They also can be a nice addition to your long Saturday runs if you had to skip a speedwork earlier in the week for some reason. Maybe you got super busy at work or it was raining really hard. Not to worry! You can add in some speedwork to your long run.

Improve Your Speed

As runners, we all want to get faster, and the best way to do that is to practice. But it can be overwhelming (and likely risk injury) if we’re pushing hard for long distances on a regular basis.

Strides are a way to get faster without having to convince yourself every time to do a hard workout. Each time that you incorporate them into a run, you’ll get a little faster the next time, which will be great come race day.

Easy to Add to Your Routine

Since strides don’t take very long, it’s easy to do a couple of them at the end of a run or after you complete a long run.

If you do four, you’re talking about an extra 5-6 minutes of working out. That’s such a small amount of time when you already have the gear on and are ready to go.

Can Do Them Barefoot

This last benefit is for those who are looking for some new ways to vary up their running.

Since you only have to sustain the pace for 30 seconds, you can get the benefits of running barefoot—increasing foot and lower leg strength—without an increased risk of injury.

How Should I Run Strides?

Start incorporating them into your runs, preferably longer runs. Don’t wait until the very end, but instead start mixing them in the last couple miles. Some people prefer to do strides after they run, so do what’s best for you.

Begin your run with a comfortable, easy pace, and when you’re ready, accelerate quickly to about 95% of your max capacity for 20-30 seconds. This is a stride/strider/acceleration. It doesn’t have to hurt, and you shouldn’t be straining or struggling.

You’re merely pushing yourself to maintain close to your max capacity for 30-second increments throughout a run. Make sure that you take plenty of time to recover by walking or very easy running for 60-90 seconds in between your strides.

You’ll want to include at least four strides into your run, and up to 12, depending on your ability. The best number is eight because you’ve gotten your body to push itself some without overdoing it.

Another way to do it is at the end of an easy or moderate run.

Find a flat area about 50 meters long. Start accelerating so you are running about 90% of your max speed when you reach the 40 meter mark. Use the last 10 meters to slow down. Repeat 5-10 times.

This method allows you to practice form and speedwork in a low key manner. It’s also a nice way to cool-down after a run.

Where are the Best Places to Run Strides?

You can actually run strides anywhere, but you’ll want about 100 meters of level terrain. That’s less than a tenth of a mile. Make sure that there aren’t any weird dips in the ground and that you’ll be able to go at 95% effort without worrying about tripping.

You can run on sidewalks, the road, parking lots, fields, the track, or even on the beach. You just need to run in a place where it’s easy for you to add several accelerations at the end of your run.

When Should I Run Strides?

Strides are most useful when you run them during one of two circumstances: during/after an easy run or before a workout/race.

For the former, it’s a way to shake out tightness, add some speedwork, and end with a bang.

For the latter, it’s a way to prepare your body to run and to run fast. You’re almost coaxing your body into sustaining harder running.

Final Thoughts

In the end, if you want to become a better runner, one of the best ways is to start adding just 20-30 seconds of accelerations to your long runs or to get pumped up before a run.

Within just a few days, you’ll see improvement in how fast you’re able to run and with less effort. And all because of 30-second strides.

Rachel Basinger
The Wired Runner