What are strides and why do they matter? A lot of runners have an idea of what they are, have done them but aren't sure what they really do.
I always advise athletes to think of them as short bursts that matter over the long-term. Why? You are basically running at full sprint speeds for distances of 50 to 100 meters in length.
How can runs this short impact your running over a 4 to 16 week period of time? One, they are too short to build up any lactic acid which is favorable to the athlete. Two, they help you recruit fast twitch muscle fibers.
The more fast twitch muscle fibers you can recruit the better. In addition, you will teach your body to run more economical and in control. Strides will make you dangerous.
The athlete who fails to do these over many weeks and months will get dusted come race day by the athlete who has.
The athlete who chooses to do strides every other day is running at sprint speeds for miles. Yes, strides are short but add them up over a few months time and you will have spent miles at sprint speed.
A strides workout will not create any lasting lactic acid build up. They are simply too short do to that. They will help make you stronger over a longer period of time when done consistently.
If you do strides running will become much more in control over the weeks and months ahead. The key is consistency.
Can Strides Help Me In The Longer Races Too?
Yes, strides keep your legs feel snappy and reminded of what they are being trained to do. The key to becoming stronger as a runner is patient, consistent training and strides will help you do exactly that.
Strides also help your running cadence. They are very short in length but force you to life your knees and pump your arms.
The best runners practice running fast and consistently. It is not necessarily that they are more talented than you. Talent may play a small part in performance but ultimately if you have the heart and guts you'll measure up to anyone.
How badly do you want it? I can tell you that I never had much talent. What I was doing was training and training in all conditions. I trained in blizzards, pouring rain, even sand storms when I was deployed to Kuwait in 2003.
I could not write a post about strides without mentioning the process. The event i.e. the great performances you see runners you admire running are a direct result of the process.
The process takes place behind the lights. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture below was a result of the process I am mentioning in this post.
What was part of that process? Strides. I did strides 3 days a week for months on end. They helped me because I was always thinking of the long-term physiological adaptations they would bring about.
MJ Demarco in his outstanding book, Fastlane Millionaire, discusses the process.
It is the part of preparing to do something worthwhile and not losing enthusiasm through the trials and tribulations.
The process he states is something far less glamorous than the event. The event is the sub-2:20 marathon performance I dropped in the picture above. It is the great race you have run in your past and the performances you are focused on in the future.
He also states that few people will work hard enough for a long enough period. Anyone can run slow. It is an art form to run fast for long periods of time.
The best way to do that is to never bypass strides in your training.
How Often Should I Do Strides?
I would advise doing strides Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. Obviously, you can change up the days so that it works best for your schedule.
Strides can range in distance from 50 to 150 meters long. The key is to gradually increase the pace of the stride until you are in an all out sprint the last 20 meters or so.
Think of doing going to the track and running an all out mile at around 4 to 5 minute mile pace. Now, think of doing that for 5 to 10 miles. This is what you are basically doing over a few months when you add them all up.
These short sprints are effective because they don't tax the body like tempo runs or long runs. In addition, they are short enough that you can still do your daily training without notice any additional fatigue.
You can do strides at the end of your easy, recovery runs just to keep your legs feeling fresh. Additionally, when you are about to start a hard track or road workout you can warm up with a few light strides.
This will elevate your heart rate and get your legs ready and reminded of what you are training them to do.
How Many Strides Should I Do?
This will be completely dependent on your training routine. I usually do 5 to 7, 100-meter strides three days a week. These sprints are usually conducted at or around my mile race pace (4:15 to 20 mile pace).
I also focus on finishing the last 20 meters of each rep all out. I always do a few strides before track workouts, tempo runs and long runs. You want to get your heart rate up and wake your legs up a bit.
These short bursts of effort will help remind your physiology to get ready.
Strides can also really help you improve your form over time. They are similar to hill sprints. You have to focus on your knee lift, arm carriage and form.
We all know that running up a hill at race pace demands a lot out of us. Easy running doesn't challenge the anaerobic systems of the body like hills and strides.
The good thing is that strides are short and don't hurt. Think of them as a long-term investment in your fitness.
How To Run Strides
A stride run usually is no more than 100 meters in length. You start off running very easy and gradually speed up as you finish the stride.
You need to focus on form lifting your knees and pumping your arms through the run. A stride workout is very brief so you won't build up any lactic acid or fatigue from doing it.
That being said, you will build enormous strength from doing these over a period of weeks and months.
What it equates to is running at sprint speeds for many miles at the end of a 4-month training block.
Key Reasons To Implement Strides Into Your Routine
Fast twitch muscle fiber recruitment. Stack did a great write-up about what these are and why you need to learn about them.
I am fascinated by exercise physiology and know that strides will help you become so much stronger over the coming months.
Increased confidence. Let's face it, it feels good to be fit and run fast. If you are patient and make these workouts a part of your weekly routine you will become so strong.
You'll notice your easy, recovery pace is much faster than it was earlier on in your training block.
Better form. The best runners are able to hold it together under great amounts of stress during their races. Strides will help you maintain form when you are fatigue.
Remember, remind yourself of the fact you have spent miles at sprint speeds over the many months of your training. This is because you were doing 5-7, 100-meter strides at near sprint speeds several times a week.
It is the long-term training effect. Keep in mind, it takes approximately 21 days or 3 weeks for your body to adapt to any stress load you place upon it.
That being said, the benefits and adaptations of the workouts you do today will take place days into the future. Keep putting in the work. Do not lose enthusiasm when it gets tough.
Remind yourself that the best runners will maintain enthusiasm while others will quit. Lastly, don't second guess yourself when you don't see results coming as fast as you would like them to.
Allow the training effects of doing these strides to take place. I can promise you that you will see huge improvements in your form and confidence if you do.