Strides are an easy and effective way to increase your speed. By adding strides to your workout two or three times a week, you can begin to see some big changes in turnover (foot speed) and performance. In this blog, I'll explain how to run strides, why they work, and when to add them to your workouts.
How to Run Strides
Randy Accetta, an experienced coach (and former 2:20 marathoner) recently told me his two secrets to faster running: strides and elbows. Strides are like sprints, but they begin and end at a slower pace. Runners begin at a normal pace that builds to about 80-90 percent of their maximum speed and then gradually subsides to normal again.
There are three phases: speed up, hold it, slow down. These three phases each make up a third of the distance totaling 60 to 80 yards. Experienced runners may finish 8-10 strides, less experienced runners should begin with 4-5 strides. In between strides, runners should recover with a 60-90 second walk or a slow jog.
I like running on the soccer field at a nearby elementary school. The grass offers nice cushioning, and the field is free of obstructions, traffic, and potholes that could cause injury. If you can find a suitable site, you might even want to try these strides barefoot.
When running strides, focus on good form. Run upright with your eyes forward and your hips under your shoulders. Lift your knees and pump your arms. Your arm speed will dictate your leg speed, so during the middle phase of the stride pump your arms for more power.
FYI: Overspeed training can be accomplished by doing your strides on a slight decline. Overspeed training teaches your muscles to fire very quickly and is a good way to improve running form and leg speed.
Why Strides Help You Run Faster
Strides improve your speed by training your body to run fast. Strides can help you develop a good finishing kick for the end of your next race, and give you the ability to accelerate when you crest a hill, turn a corner, or choose to separate yourself from the rest of the pack. Strides will make you faster by conditioning your fast-twitch muscle fibers and teaching your body how to run more efficiently.
You should notice some carry over into your tempo runs and interval training as well. The improved running form and neuromuscular conditioning gained by running strides two or three times per week will make you less jerky and more coordinated during other forms of speedwork. By incorporating strides after your runs, you can also learn how to run fast on tired legs.
When to Add Strides to Your Workout
Strides are a good addition after your easy runs. Be careful not to run too many strides, or run too far during your strides. You don't want to turn your easy day into a hard workout. You just want to wake up your legs and remind them what fast feels like.
Some people like to do strides as a warm up before racing or working out. This is an excellent strategy as long as your body has already been warmed up with some easy running and dynamic stretching. You don't want to suffer injury by jumping into your strides cold.
And, if you're still wondering about the secret of the elbows, here it is. When you are suffering during a run and you want to give up, think about how your elbows feel. You may be cramping, your lungs may be burning, your feet may be blistered, but your elbows feel pretty good, right? Not all is lost. Focus on how good your elbows feel and carry on.
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