Improving your speed, like improving your strength, is key to staying a strong and healthy runner.
Strides are seen as the best form of speed training for beginners.
Whilst speed training can take many forms, including interval training, tempo running and Fartlek training, it all has the main goal of making you a faster, stronger and more powerful runner.
The more comfortable you become running at an accelerated speed, the more likely you are to be able to run at a faster, sustained pace during your long runs and more importantly on race day.
But what exactly are strides and how can they benefit you in your training?
In this guide we’ll explore:
- What are strides?
- What are the benefits of strides?
- How to run strides
- How to include strides in your training plan
- How to run strides on a treadmill
What are strides?
Strides (or ‘striders’) are short bursts of running at an accelerated speed.
Due to their simplistic nature, they are a great form of speed training for new runners and beginner runners.
The idea is that you start with a jog then build to about 95% of your maximum speed, then gradually come to a stop.
One stride should take you about 25-30 seconds depending on your running ability.
Strides are easy to include in your weekly routine as they can be done before a run as a warm up, in the middle of a run, or after an easy run to work on form.
Related: How to run an 8 minute mile
What are the benefits of strides?
There are many benefits to running strides – they really are a great all round workout when it comes to running.
Here are the main benefits of strides:
- Good for new and beginner runners
- Improve running form and economy
- Improve your stride rate
- Prepare you mentally and physically for a run
- Easy to fit into a busy schedule
Good for new and beginner runners
One of the biggest benefits is that strides get you used to speed training as a new or beginner runner.
Strides, on the other hand, are simple and easy to perform before or after your run.
Improve running form and economy
One of the main aims of strides is to improve running form and economy.
As such, strides are great at reinforcing proper running mechanics.
Improve your stride rate
Strides are also a great way to improve your stride rate – that is the number of strides taken in a given amount of time or distance.
According to a 2022 study, research has demonstrated that subtle changes in step rate can reduce the energy absorption required in the lower limbs and joints.
This may prove beneficial in the prevention and treatment of running injuries.
Prepare you mentally and physically for a run
Another great benefit of running strides is that they mentally and physically prepare you to run fast before a race if done as part of a warm up.
Easy to fit into a busy schedule
If you’re short on time, strides only take a few minutes to complete as part of your run or as a standalone activity.
So you can easily fit in a workout with feeling guilty about going for a long run.
How to run strides
The beauty of strides is that they are very simple to complete and include at the beginning, middle or end of your run.
Remember, a stride should feel like a controlled pace rather than a full on sprint. Throughout all of this, really focus on your form.
Make sure you keep your chest high and shoulders relaxed. Make sure you have proper arm swing during your easy run and accelerated run.
Here is a sample strides workout to try on your next run:
- Start by running easy then gradually increase your speed until you’re at 95% of your maximum speed.
- Once you’ve run three quarters of the distance, start to slow down by shortening your stride until you come to a gentle jog then walk.
- Your stride length should go from short, quick strides at the start to long strides whilst you’re running fast, then back to short, quick strides.
- Once you’ve finished the stride, walk back to the starting point and use this time to recover and catch your breath.
- Alternatively, wait on the spot then turn around and run the stride again.
How to include strides in your training plan
Strides can form part of your training plan whether you’re running a 5k or marathon – they are really flexible and adaptable for all distances.
Start off by including 4 to 6 strides in your training plan each week.
These could either be as a standalone activity or included before or after your run. Just be sure to do them before an easy run if you’re just starting out.
Once you’ve done about 3 to 4 weeks of these, then it’s time to increase to 6 to 8 strides per week.
Remember to take a break in between each stride. Take a minute or two to catch your breath and get yourself ready for the next stride.
So here is a summary of how to include strides in your training plan:
- Weeks 1 to 4: 4-6 strides per week
- Weeks 5-8: 6-8 strides per week
How to run strides on a treadmill
Running strides on a treadmill is slightly different than running them outdoors.
The good news is that strides can be done indoors and outdoors.
Start off by including 4 to 6 strides in your training plan each week then gradually increase to 4-6 each week.
- Warm up with a light jog.
- Increase your pace quickly until you are sprinting for roughly 2-3 seconds and then quickly decrease your pace.
- Your slow pace after the stride should be 10-30 seconds slower than your easy running pace to recover.
- Continue this easy pace for about 1-2 minutes before doing the next stride.
Running on a treadmill can be quite daunting if you’re not used to it.
So be sure to clue yourself up on the treadmill itself and its safety features before attempting any sort of speed workout.