Just how good are striders for your running?
As a competitive high school and collegiate runner, I did strides all the time. How often are you asking? I would say over those 8 years I did strides 4-5 times a week. Striders are so good at helping runners feel fast, get fast, and work on running mechanics. I did striders every chance I could because I knew just how good they made me feel.
It wasn’t until I got older and more pressed for time that I prioritized running mileage over doing strides at the end of a run that my performances and my ability to stay healthy deteriorated. As my striders fell by the wayside, my running form wasn’t as sleek, I came down with small injuries, and I definitely wasn’t as fast.
When you’re injured, you don’t want to do striders and so it was a vicious cycle. No striders meant my form wasn’t as sharp and running form that isn’t as sharp led to injuries.
As I got back into serious training where I was focusing on racing, I really stressed doing striders often and incorporating them into my weekly runs. I felt the benefits immediately! In the past 2 years, adding striders to my weekly running routine has kept me injury-free, helped me run fast at the end of races, and improved my other workout paces.
When you are efficient at shorter race speeds (like mile race pace), which you touch on when you do striders, you can run faster at longer distances like 5k’s and 10k’s. These race paces are possible because they don’t feel as fast. When they don’t feel as fast, you don’t need to spend as much energy running them.
I saw a post on Instagram and thought it was really worth diving into. The coaches who posted it had very valid points, so much so that I really have nothing wrong with the post. I truly liked it, thought it brought lots of value, and wish I had actually posted it instead!
Their post summarized that striders help improve your ability to run marathon pace (really every pace) and they should be done frequently throughout your weekly training.
In today’s post, I’m going to tell you what striders are (in case you don’t know), why striders are good for you, and when I do my striders.
What are striders?
Striders are “sprints” that are done at fast paces aimed to make you a more efficient runner. They are fast in nature – somewhere around mile race pace (slightly faster or slightly slower) depending on where you are in your training. Striders are typically 50-100 meters in length with as much recovery as you need in order to run the next strider faster and with better form.
For example, if your first strider is 50 meters at 5k pace, your next strider should be 75 meters at faster than 5k pace. Your third strider might be 80 meters at 3k race pace. Your 4th and 5th strider would be 90 meters at mile race pace. Your 6th strider might be 100 meters at faster than mile race pace.
Again, each of these is done with as much rest as you need (typically, I’ll take 30 seconds to 2 minutes rest) so that your breathing returns to normal and you can run the next repeat faster and with better running form. Depending on the run, I either jog the rest (if it’s in the middle of my run) or I completely stand still and rest (workouts & pre-race).
Doing striders during your training helps you work on your running form, better known as your running mechanics. When you run fast, your stride gets to open up and you can run optimally, landing on the balls of your feet.
How should you run your striders?
During your strider, you should be in total control; your form should be as perfect as you can make it and you should not be straining at all. Your goal is to run fast, but also looking and feeling like a million bucks.
I start my first strider “slower” (right around 5k-10k race pace) and each one of the 4-6 after gets faster and faster until my pace is hovering around mile race pace.
If I have the right space (a turf field), I’ll do my striders barefoot. This allows me to really focus on being on the balls of my feet, helps me improve the strength of the small muscles and tendons in my feet, and gets me even closer to being a natural runner. I will note that if you are not ready for this (barefoot running), it can definitely be risky to your running health. If you want to try it, but not sure your feet are ready, try doing a single strider barefoot and gradually increase your time spent barefoot.
When should you run striders?
I aim to run my striders the day before a hard day. For me a hard day is a workout where I aim to run threshold, intervals, tempos or fast repetitions. And the other hard day I have is my long run. So typically, I will run my hard days on Wednesday and Saturday, which means I do striders on Tuesday and Friday.
I also do striders on my workout day. I’ll do my activation drills, followed by an easy warmup run. After my 15-20 min run is done, I’ll run 4+ striders to get my body closer to running the workout pace I’m aiming to hit.
The last typical day I run striders is on race day. I’ll do the same as above for workouts, except I’ll run closer to 6-8+ striders as I wait for my race to start.
Why are striders good for you?
Let’s think back to the Instagram post above. The one runner didn’t do any striders and the other runner ran lots of striders every week. That runner spent lots of time (albeit in short spurts) at faster-than-marathon pace. Running faster paces helps your slower paces feel easier. When you run striders at 5:30 pace, then 7 minute pace is going to feel that much easier for you.
Striders help you “open up” and let your legs go through a full range of motion. Your hips extend, your arms drive, and your legs run through their full capacity. Striders are great for when you feel sluggish or when your body is “stuck” in the same old pace.
Striders are amazing at helping you work on your running form. Nothing says good form like running fast! When you run fast for such a short duration, you’re able to work on driving your knees, pumping your arms, and landing on your forefoot.
Lastly, striders are speed work. Yes, your striders may only total 300 meters, but that’s 300 meters at a fast pace that you’re getting 1-4 times a week. That really adds up over time!
If you really want to see some jumps in your fitness, you should be adding striders into your running routine. Striders are great at disguising speed work and because they are so short, you really don’t feel like you’re being taxed. Striders are helpful at opening up your hips and legs and promote great running form.
Personally, I do striders the day before a workout and the day before a long run. On workout day and race day, I also do striders before I run fast. The striders help prime my body for the hard (and fast) work I’m about to do.
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