Why Running Strides Makes You Faster

Running strides is a relatively easy way to improve your running speed.

Despite this, I don't see many recreational runners making use of them.

Sure, when people train with coaches or are part of an athletics club, strides are pretty much a fixed part of training.

But I haven't seen the same amongst recreational runners. And that is a shame, because running strides can be very beneficial.

This page covers:

  • What are strides?

  • Why do you do them at the end of easy runs?

  • Why do strides help improve your running speed?

  • Alternative to running strides - hill sprints

  • What are strides?

    running tips
    Strides are short runs of maybe 100-150 metres or so in which you considerably pick up the pace. They are not all-out attempts, but definitely fast.

    The way to do them is as follows: they last about 20-25 seconds all in. You start with picking up the speed from an easy jog, then build, build, build, until you hit close to your maximum speed. Hold that speed for 3-5 seconds. Then drop off the pace to a slow jog or walk.

    You try to focus on having quick turnover in your legs. One of the cues I use in my head when I am doing strides is that I "want to run like a gazelle". Very light feet, very quick turnover. I let the rest take care of itself.

    Make sure you do not turn doing strides into a hard session. You want to feel in control of your speed and only get close to maximum speed for a short little while!

    After a stride you will want to take a short walk or easy jog for 90 seconds / 2 minutes or so. Then do another one.

    When you start out you might do two strides at the end of a run. You build up to six to eight over time.

    Why do you do strides at the end of easy runs?

    running strides
    There are a few reasons why you do strides at the end of easy runs. One reason is that typically at the end of a race you once more try to give it all you got and pick up the pace. Strides simulate that.

    Another reason is that you want them to be quality strides. You want to be able to concentrate on them, making sure you make your legs go quickly but in the meanwhile maintaining your running style.
    I wouldn't do them at the end of a hard session, such as a tempo run or interval session. You'd normally be too tired to do strides well, your legs would be heavy.

    It's better to do them after an easy run when your legs are still relatively fresh.

    If you are a bit like me, you are probably pressed for time, almost always. The way I "sneak" strides into my runs is that I reserve the last kilometre or mile of my easy run for strides. Rather than making them this additional thing I have to do at the end of a run, I incorporate it into the run. That way, I don't feel like I am losing time and it is a nice way to finish an easy run!

    Why do strides help improve your running speed?

    running strides
    When you frequently do strides at the end of your easy runs, you will improve your running form and your coordination. You become a more economical runner, which means you use less energy with every step you take. This simply, makes you faster for longer!

    Especially when you are in a base building phase with lots of easy running, running strides is a pretty essential component of your running program. All that easy running, can make you a bit of a slow runner. Strides remind your body regularly what it is to move fast.

    This is where some of my ultra running friends could improve themselves. They are very impressive with their long distance and easy running on a continuous basis. And some of them can literally go for days without stopping! But most of them have lost the ability to run fast as a result of all that easy running.

    Now, don't get me wrong. Lots of easy running is very good for you. But just adding strides at the end of those runs, would make them go from good to great.

    Alternative to running strides - hill sprints

    running strides
    A more and more popular alternative to running strides is hill sprints. Find yourself a hill and do an all-out sprint for 8-10 seconds. That's all, only 8-10 seconds. Then slowly walk back. Wait. Wait a bit more, until you have waited 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Then do another hill sprint.

    Lots of us have difficulties with the waiting! As endurance focused animals, we want to work hard and waiting and standing around is not a part of that picture!

    But, you are doing yourself a disservice if you are not including the pause between the sprints. You are trying to go for maximum effort. You can simply not get to maximum effort if you do not take the time for rest in between the hill sprints.

    Very important with hill sprints is that you build them up slowly. It is a bit of an assault on the legs. So the first time, just do only two. Then build up over a number of weeks to about eight.

    Hill sprints are a great alternative to strides with many of the same benefits. You make yourself a faster, more economical runner and the running uphill builds some leg strength as well.

    That brings us to the end of this page. I hope I have convinced you that you should add strides to your running program.

    Use them, and over time, running strides will help you become a faster runner.

    It takes a bit of time for the effect of strides to kick in.

    So, as with every aspect of running training, be consistent with them, do them regularly and good things will come!

    Also check out the speed training for runners page for more of my thoughts on speed training.

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