By Esther Dill
Do you wish you could pick up your pace in the last stretch of your race and finish strong? Strides could be your answer.
If you are a spectator at the finish line of any race, you will be amazed at how many runners pick up their pace as they head down the final straightaway. This is especially impressive for long distance races, such as marathons. For your next training cycle, add strides to your easy runs and see how your legs react when you have your sights on the finish line.
What are Strides?
Strides are basically short sprints at 85-95% effort for 100 meters, the length of one straightaway on a track. Typically, you practice running strides after an easy recovery run or before a big workout or a race. You can also use strides as a quick warm-up to help get your blood flowing to your legs and get your heart rate up.
How to do Strides
- Strides are done at the end of your easy run, not in the middle, typically after 3-6 miles.
- After your run, stretch lightly.
- You don’t have to run on a track or be precise about a 100-meter sprint. You can run lamp post to lamp post, for instance, or sprint for 25-30 seconds and take a full recovery between each stride.
- Run relaxed, after you reach full speed, focus on form. Keep your head up, shoulders relaxed, and arms pumping at your side, not crossing your chest.
The goal is to increase your stride length while maintaining a quick foot turnover. If this is new to you, repeat 4 times, then work your way up to 6-8 times.
Benefits of Strides
Strides reinforce good running form, especially when you are fatigued at the end of a race. They are designed to work on your speed and mechanics to build power and help improve your neuromuscular coordination.
As distance runners, we are training mostly at slower speeds that build up an aerobic base and not speed, so strides offer a perfect way to inject some speed and quick foot turnover. Strides are also an excellent way to loosen up after an easy run and help prepare you to run faster.
Since strides are short bursts of speed and builds power in short increments that helps you sustain speed at the end of your race. This is an excellent method to introduce speed to beginner runners. You don’t need to get to a track or football field to do these.
There are many options for speed workouts, but adding strides a few times a month are an excellent way to build up your aerobic system and threshold. You are teaching your body what it feels like to come to the final stretch of your race and get that last little push and cross the finish line strong and with a smile on your face.
Esther Dill has completed 30 marathons, including two at Boston. She holds a Road Runner’s Club of America coaching certification and believes running is about fitness, accomplishment, and community. She is available at www.marathon-mommy.com.