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How Running Stride Works

Changing Your Running Stride

Now that you understand proper running stride, let's talk about when it may be appropriate to alter it. The most common reason for changing your running stride is if you're struggling to complete each run despite regular workouts. There could be several causes for this, ranging from medical illness to improper warm-up. However, it could also mean that your stride length is too long. Taking too long a stride uses a lot of energy and puts undue stress on muscles and joints, making injury more likely than if you were running at your proper stride.

If your turnover rate is less than 85 RPMs, try adding one additional step each time you run. You can do this easily and improve your performance if you shorten the length of your stride just slightly. Shortening your stride by only an inch can relax your muscles and improve your strength and endurance [source: Pugh]. This is an excellent technique for running races, where you need to conserve energy in order to pick up speed at the end of a race.

In contrast to shortening your stride, which most runners find relatively easy, effectively lengthening your stride takes a bit of practice. Among recreational runners, stride lengthening is generally advised only for the shufflers among us. Among elite runners, increasing stride length can be helpful for sprinters, where covering the most ground in the shortest possible time is critical.

Lengthening stride is also a strategy of some longer-distance and race runners, since taking longer steps can be an effective way to go faster. But keep in mind that there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. The wrong way is suddenly leaping forward without training your muscles for the task. This is called overstriding, which we discuss in the next section. The right way is to do stride-lengthening drills, many of which incorporate running up hills and high-knee running.

If you do alter your running stride, what's in it for you? Read on to learn some of the pros and cons about running with the correct stride.