Strides are one of the best workout tools for runners, whether you are training for the mile run or an ultra marathon. The focus is on short bursts of running quickly, yet relaxed.
Strides are not sprints
Nor are they a race between you and your training group
For most runners, a stride feels like a fun, efficient experience. They are the fastest pace you can go while staying totally smooth and comfortable. Since they are short in duration, you can reinforce what relaxed, fast running should feel like.
You should accelerate into your peak pace, hold it for just a little bit, and then decelerate. Don’t slam on the brakes when the repetition time is up.
How to Do Flat Strides
When you do strides, focus on good form, running confidently strong and tall through the hips. You may notice your knee drives up and your arm action will be bigger compared to your slower running paces. Think about smooth speed, with powerful, yet quick steps.
If you start flailing about, clenching your jaw, making fists, or tightening up other muscles, the strides will be less effective (and possibly injure you). Don’t worry too much about pace. Focus instead on your form.
Tip: If you’ve never done strides, use a section of your route is that is just slightly downhill. That imperceptible difference in grade during a slower pace is magnified during a stride so you can learn that effortless feeling you are looking for.
How to Do Hill Strides
Hill strides have an additional benefit over flat strides in that they are a strength workout too. How steep should the hill be? Anywhere from a moderate grade like a highway overpass to a steeper grade like you’d find on mountain trails. Steeper hills require you to focus on power generation, shallower hills let you go faster.
After each hill repetition, jog or walk back to where you started—this reduces injury risk due to downhill running until you are stronger. If you are braking (leaning backward and walking on your heels on the way down, move to a shallower hill). Don’t begin the next one until you are fully recovered, up to one to two minutes later.
Don’t skip the recovery — your form will likely suffer so you’re only teaching your body bad habits. Straining while you are trying to run fast has a higher injury risk.
Tip: If you find a hill that really makes you get up on your toes to run, then it it doubles as a strength workout. These will make you stronger but are also riskier.
If you have never done strides before, then start at the low end of repetitions and add one to two repetitions with each set of strides. Four weeks of one to two sets per week will keep your fast-twitch muscles firing and give you weekly feedback on your biomechanics.
4 to 10 repetitions of 15 second uphill strides followed by
4 to 10 repetitions of 15 second flat strides
Many Garmin models let you program a workout so you can focus on the workout instead of looking at your watch.
Once you’ve built to 10 reps of 15 seconds, you can move to 20 seconds, then 30 seconds — again, building up from a lower number of repetitions.
Drop repetitions, shorten the run interval, or lengthen the recovery time if your form gets sloppy.