What Are Running Strides?

You may have heard runners and coaches referring to running strides, also known as striders or accelerations.

Strides are short 20-30 second running efforts, with a focus on technique. They will help you to improve your running form. As a type of neuromuscular training, running strides will improve your speed and running efficiency.

Even though these strides are completed at a fast pace, runners who complete most of their training at a steady pace like marathoners and ultra runners will benefit from the good habits that they promote.

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In the great video above, coach Greg McMillan explains why it’s important for runners of all levels and types to include regular sets of strides into their training schedule. He explains how these short, sharp neuromuscular sessions work.

When Should You Run Strides

There are a few different ways of incorporating running strides into your running training plan. Each option has a slightly different benefit, and suits a different situation. Feel free to try any of the following ways of fitting regular strides into your training week:

  1. Running Strides After Your Warm-Up: This is particularly appropriate before running your speed sessions, whether that’s a track interval workout, mile reps or a tempo run. After your have finished your normal warm-up, use strides to further prepare your body for the intensity and speed of the running workout that lies ahead. Perform 4-6 sets of 20-30 second accelerations up to 95% of your maximum speed, to help warm-up your leg turn-over and stride length.
  2. Strides After Your Long Easy Runs: Try adding 4-6 sets of strides to the end of a long run. These won’t be as fast as the warm-up strides mentioned above. Instead, only accelerate up to your 5km race pace for 15-20 seconds. Focus on maintaining proper running form despite your tired legs. Take lots of recovery between each set of strides. This way of using strides after your long run will help teach your body to maintain good form and running cadence later into a race. They also provide a good dynamic stretch which may help recovery after your long steady session.
  3. Strides as a Stand Alone Session: If you’re pushed for time but still want to complete a running session that provides good technical ‘bang for your buck’, strides are a great option! Warm-up as you would for a speed workout, then perform 6-12 sets of strides ranging from between 20 seconds to 45 seconds, with a slow walk-back recovery between sets. You can also use this session as a “sharpener” workout the day before a race.

How to perform running strides

How To Perform Running Strides

As described above, there are numerous ways of performing a set of strides. Personally, I like to first warm-up properly with a 10-15min easy run, then some dynamic stretches and drills, then I do the following:

  • 4-6 sets of 60-100 meters at a pace that accelerates from easy to 5k race pace. Think about posture, maintaining a high cadence, picking your feet up, and driving with the arms!

Although each of these efforts builds up to a pace far faster than the pace I complete the majority of my training at, the focus is on staying relaxed and achieving great running technique.

Barefoot Running Strides?

Some coaches advocate practicing barefoot running strides on grass to help improve running form, strengthen the feet, ankles and lower legs, and improving proprioception.

I’ve seen great results with this, both personally and with some athletes I work with. We’d warm-up in proper running shoes, then do the running strides barefoot, then put our running shoes back on for the rest of the session.

This is a great example of using barefoot running as a coaching tool, rather than a lifestyle choice!

However, this won’t be appropriate for all runners. So if you do decide to try running barefoot strides, try only a few efforts at first, and go easy.

Do You Find Strides Beneficial?

Please tell me what you think in the comments section below…

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Last updated on October 24th, 2020.

5 Comments

  1. Great! Thanks for this. I’m a distance runner, but really need to build some speed. Three times a week, I run twice a day. My plan is to do strides after each of my 3 morning runs to improve my turnovers, then hit the track in the evening for harder workout sessions. Thanks again for this nice post!

    1. Thanks for sharing this suggestion Kyle. I too have tried this in the past and really like adding quicker technique-focused bursts into my long steady runs… Reminds me – I must start doing it again! 🙂

  2. I guess I’ve been sort of doing this for a while with 30 seconds on / 30 off x20. However we try to balance the effort by always getting to the same point on each rep, which becomes hard then really hard. Not quite at mile pace but higher than 5k.

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