If you are not doing strides on a regular basis, then you are missing out on a quick and easy training tool. Strides are 20-30 second efforts of fast running at about 90-95% of max effort, separated by a full rest period of about 1.5-3 minutes. Strides are not sprints, you should start easily, then gradually build to top end about 3-7 seconds into the effort. Strides should be done several times per week, for beginners, try incorporating 2-4 strides, 2 times per week. Typically, these are done after the workout, but they can also be performed before a speed session, or in the middle of a run. Experienced runners can do 6-10 strides, 4-5 times per week (these are rough rules of thumb, a specific training prescription should be tailored to the individual athlete). Bring your attention to your form while doing strides, it is important to build solid habits with proper form, this will optimize your performance gains and will guard against injury. Here’s a quick run down of some of the benefits of using strides as a regular part of your training.
1) Neuromuscular – You are “teaching” your body to run fast. By focusing on proper form during strides, you are building good habits, which will translate to faster, more efficient running.
2) Metabolic – Strides provides a significant stress to both the ATP-CP (immediate) energy system and the glycolytic systems. It is important to not neglect these systems, particularly for long distance runners.
3) Cardiovascular – Performing strides regularly can contribute to improving and maintaining your VO2max – a measure of how much oxygen you can deliver to your muscles during running. Strides also contribute to making your heart stronger, improving stroke volume, and improving its ability to deliver oxygen-rich blood to muscles in demand.
4) Psychological – It is fun to run fast. Doing strides after a workout leaves you feeling triumphant, like you just chased down a gazelle. On days your legs feel heavy, or you just aren’t feeling like running, strides can be just the remedy you need.
5) Mobility – Strides take your body through full range of the running motion. Especially for long distance runners, who spend lots of time running a moderate pace without opening up their strides, doing strides regularly can help you maintain good mobility for your entire body.
So if you are not doing strides already, it may be time to try them out. I think you will be happy with the results. If you are already doing them, keep it up!