Strides is a general term for a widely varied set of workouts intended to improve some aspect of your running form or speed. The basic idea of this conditioning method is to push yourself to, or beyond, normal race speed for a short distance. Strides should always be run in flat, grassy fields or on cushioned track surfaces to lessen the impact on your body and prevent injury. You should also give yourself a minute or two to recover between stride sets because fatigue can worsen the very technique you're trying to improve. With these general principles in mind, you're ready to get running. Here are a few ways you can put strides to work:
- Before a race: One beneficial time to run strides is right before a race. Try doing four to six pre-race strides of 80 to 100 meters (262 to 328 feet) each. Quickly accelerate to race speed, hold that pace, and then slowly decelerate.
- After an easy run: Running strides after jogging at a relaxed pace is also useful. After stretching for five or 10 minutes, accelerate to and hold your 5K speed for about 100 meters. Repeat this exercise six to eight times.
- As a stand-alone workout: Strides are an excellent way to perfect your form and increase your speed. For a technique-focused workout, run three sets of five 150-meter strides, with a full recovery between each set. These can be run at speeds from your mile pace to an all-out sprint. During each set, focus on some aspect of your form: stride length, hand position, knee height or body posture. The track is an excellent place to do speed-building strides. Sprint the straightaways and jog or walk the turns. Try to complete four laps when you first start, then slowly build to 12 by adding a couple of laps every two weeks.
While strides workouts can be grueling, they're sure to make you a better runner. The following section details the benefits you can expect if you stick with this workout.