The Importance of Strides
If you have been running for any length of time you have probably heard someone refer to doing strides. Some may mention doing strides before a workout or race while others talk about strides after a run. It can be a little confusing if you have never been trained on strides, so let’s provide a quick overview on What is a stride, What is the purpose of strides, and How best to perform them.
What is a Stride?
Strides are 20-30 second sprints at about 80% – 90% of your all-out-effort. Runners will usually perform 4-6 strides with a 2:00 minute break between each stride. Typically, strides are performed before a race or challenging workout, or after an easy or recovery run. They are not run at full, sprint speed, and they are not done during the middle of a workout.
What is the Purpose of Strides?
There are two primary reasons for performing strides:
- Before a race or challenging workout, strides are done as part of the warm-up to increase blood flow to the muscles, increase your heart rate, and prepare your body for the activity about to be performed. That way race speed or the challenges of the workout won’t be a shock to your body. Strides should be performed towards the end of your warm-up following dynamic stretching and some jogging/easy running.
- Following an easy run/recovery run, strides are done to inject some speed work into your workout without tiring you, to help you work on your form and mechanics in short increments, and to help shake-out the legs after a longer, easy run. This benefits a broader muscle group than just consistently running at slower paces, firing up some of the shorter, fiber muscles used in speed workouts and races. It also allows you to concentrate on executing the proper running form toward the end of a run when you are more tired and mechanics often break down. And finally, it adds a different experience to the monotony of long runs and freshens the legs by breaking up some of the lactic acid that builds up during your long runs and often helps you feel refreshed prior to your next workout.
How best to perform Strides?
As we previously stated, strides are primarily done before a race or challenging workout, or are completed at the end of an easy/recovery workout. Let’s look at how to perform strides in each of these scenarios.
Before a race or challenging workout:
Step 1- Warm-up gradually using dynamic stretching exercises followed by 5-10 minutes of easy jogging.
Step 2- Perform your first stride on a relatively flat and straight 200 yard stretch by increasing your running speed for about 5 seconds time reaching 80%-90% of your max effort. Stay relaxed and focus on your form while holding that pace for 20 seconds before gradually coming to a complete stop during the last 5 seconds of your stride.
Step 3- Take a full 2:00 minute recovery after your stride. During this recovery you can stop, walk, or jog at a very easy pace. The goal is to be ready to complete your next stride fully recovered. The goal of strides is to work on your speed and mechanics, increase your heart rate, and warm your legs and body for the race/workout ahead.
Step 4- Repeat a series of strides and 2:00 minutes of recovery after each stride for a total of 4-6 strides. Before a race you should plan your warm-up and strides so you complete the strides with enough time to use the bathrooms and get into your corral/starting position about 5-10 minutes prior to your race.
Following an Easy/Recovery Run:
Step 1- Complete your strides after your easy/recovery run, not during your run
Step 2- After your run take a 2:00 minute break and lightly stretch to prepare yourself for completing your strides
Step 3- Perform your first stride on a relatively flat and straight 200 yard stretch. Begin this first stride by gradually building your speed for about 5 seconds time reaching 80%-90% of your max effort. Stay relaxed and focus on your form while holding that pace for 20 seconds before gradually coming to a complete stop during the last 5 seconds of your stride.
Step 4- Take a full 2:00 minute recovery after your stride. During this recovery you can stop, walk, or jog at a very easy pace. The goal is to be ready to complete your next stride fully recovered. The goal of strides is to work on your speed and mechanics, not to perform a hard workout.
Step 5- Repeat a series of strides and 2:00 minutes of recovery after each stride for a total of 4-6 strides.
Step 6- Complete a proper cool down routine following your stride repeats.
Step 7- Incorporate strides into your weekly schedule once or twice per week after a few of your easy/recovery runs.
Strides can be a great addition to your running and racing routines. Not only can they add variation to the monotony of long run routines, but they can also help your legs feel a little fresher, help you with your mechanics and speed, and help prepare your body before your next challenging workout or race. Reach out and let us know how they work for you. See you on the trails.