Tips to improve running speed: stride length and stride frequency
To run faster, we have some options. We can run down hill and have our legs fly out from under us.
I don’t advise we do this often, though.
Or we can improve our stride rate. Stride rate is a combination of the distance between foot strikes (stride length) and how often we take those steps (stride frequency). To really understand stride frequency and how it can help us run faster, there are some terms we should dig into:
Stride Length: stride length is the distance between foot strikes. Often, it’s measured from a foot’s take off, back to when it lands.
Stride Frequency: stride frequency is how often (foot strikes per distance) your feet are coming in contact with the ground. As a side note, the longer your foot is in contact with ground though, the slower your stride rate will be.
Stride Rate: stride rate is measured by multiplying the stride length (distance) by how often you’re coming in contact with the ground (time). The result is a rate (fraction) of feet per second. Garmin watches, like my Garmin 235 for example, tells me strides per minute.
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These two factors, stride length and stride frequency make up a runner’s stride rate. To speed up on a run or during a race, one of these two factors has to increase: we must either take more steps in the same amount of distance or we must lengthen our stride.
Today, I’ll be providing tips to improve stride length, stride frequency and ultimately stride rate.
Tips to Improve Stride Length
A runner’s stride length is usually measured in meters. For example, my Garmin tells me that my stride length is 1.3 meters. As we get in better shape, our stride length will gradually improve, if ever so slightly.
Another is to focus on being a strong runner through strength training. Stronger muscles, joints, and ligaments can assist in providing power and coordination that will lengthen your stride.
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Core work is essential to running efficiency and this includes stride length. Engaged core muscles assist in lengthening our stride. Doing a weekly session of core work will assist in lengthening our stride.
In summary, stride length is the distance between steps and while being a stronger runner definitely helps, focusing on improving your stride frequency will ultimately improve your stride rate. Remember, you really only need to focus on one of the two to improve your stride rate.
Tips to Improve Stride Frequency
One of the most important things to know [or remember] about working on your stride is that you always have to be thinking about it. As a runner, it pays to be efficient: being efficient requires less energy to do the same amount of work, so we can either run faster or run longer.
Here are some drills you can do to improve your stride frequency:
- Quick feet
- High knees
- Fast arms
- Walks and skips over mini (banana) hurdles
- Practice running tall
- Striders after your run
Running form drills [coach Pelerin prescribes these prior to runs and especially before a workout or race] reinforce proper running technique that becomes second nature. These include A skip, B skip, high knees, and glute kicks.
Again, stride frequency is getting your foot from the ground, through its cycle and back to the ground. The faster and more efficient you are at doing this, the speedier you will be.
In order to have a faster stride rate, we need to work on two facets of running stride: stride length and stride frequency. Improving our stride length can be attained by becoming a stronger runner and by logging more mileage. As we get stronger and fitter, our stride lengths increase. To improve stride frequency, we must practice running drills that reinforce proper mechanics. By doing so, we are sending neuromuscular signals to our legs that improve our efficiency.
All told, improving our stride length OR our stride frequency will create a net positive and effect our stride rate. This will result in a speedier, more efficient runner.
Links to articles I’ve found useful on this topic:
- Plyo drills for runners
- Speed training for distance runners
- Glute strength
- Core workout
- Improving running form
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Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!
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