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What are they?
Strides, Pick-ups or Striders they’re all the same thing. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? The short bursts of speed that you are supposed to do after your easy runs. Maybe you haven’t. Something I have noticed is that elite runners swear by them. That’s elite runners from 3km racers to Marathon distance. So don’t for an instant exclude yourself from the group of people that should be doing them because you’re a long distance runner. They’re beneficial to everyone.
One thing I want to clarify though, is that alone, they’re not beneficial. Strides are not HIIT (High intensity interval training). They’re short bursts of speed after your easy runs.
Why should you do them?
Strides are to a runner, like oil is to an engine.
Think about it, you’ve been training your ass off and your legs feel a bit stale. Perhaps they’re not sore, but all the sheer volume is having an effect on your legs. When you do large amounts of running at an easy pace, which is definitely not a bad thing your legs do start to get a bit stiff. You’re pounding out hundreds of Kilometers with the same range of movement. Strides are a useful way to counter that. When you sprint at a high speed you’re using a higher range of movement. It’s almost like a dynamic stretch. You’re forcing your legs to use a higher range of movement and in the process you’re stretching them. You’re getting rid of all that funk that has built up while pounding out all the miles required for your next race.
On a physiological level, when you do strides you’re cementing integral movements into your running technique that will not only benefit you when you’re running fast. These intricate movements and augmentations to your technique will translate into your slower easier running as well. Anecdotally, my easy pace went from about 05:40min/km to about 05:10min/km in a year, and all I did was more strides in my training.
How do you do them?
Strides can be done up to 3 times a week, they’re not meant to be hard and I highly recommend walking back to your starting position between each rep. They’re meant to be fun and complimentary to existing training. If your’e feeling strained from other training, don’t over do it.
How many reps should I do?
That’s up to you, I’ve never done more than 8 however I never do less than 4. The key thing is to make sure you’re not over doing it.
Step 1: After an easy run find a nice open field. I am fortunate enough to have a university sporting facility near my house that I can use.
Step 2: Take off your shoes and let your toes feel what it’s like to run free. I believe that doing strides barefoot is not 100% essential but I’ve noticed that it’s improved my foot strength immensely. If you don’t have a nice grassy field to do barefoot strides on, then I’d caution against running barefoot. It’s a surefire way to get injured unless you ease into it slowly and carefully.
Step 3: Measure out 100m, it doesn’t have to be precise. It could be anything between 70m and 150m. What I usually do is take my shoes off, place one down, then walk 100 big steps in the opposite direction and place the other one down. One will be my starting point and the other the ending point.
Step 4: Now all you have to do is run. Start off slowly. It’s not a sprint. Strides are the fastest you can run while maintaining correct bio-mechanical running form. Use the first 30% percent of the stride to accelerate. Then maintain your speed for about 40% of the stride. After that you can slowly decelerate.
- Try Focusing on one aspect of your running each stride you do. So for example focus on having good knee drive for one rep. Then focus on carrying your arms close to your body. You need to identify where your form is sloppy and use strides as a way to remedy that.