What are strides and why should you add them to your routine?
Though as distance runners, our primary focus is aerobic development, there is a lot more to training than just easy running. Our biomechanics and our ability to run fast and efficiently is also extraordinarily important. Perhaps this is one of the most ignored components of training for most runners. One of the easiest things to incorporate into your running is the addition of strides (also called striders or accelerations).
Strides are quick intervals of short duration, usually about 15-25 seconds or about 100m intended to accentuate fast twitch muscle response, ground contact time and physical coordination while running at a maximal or near maximal velocity. Think of these as controlled sprints. These are often done after easy runs, or before a workout or race. Before a workout or a race, strides wake up neuromuscular connections and create muscle tension that aids in greater power output at faster speeds.
Now the purpose of strides is not aerobic in nature, so there should be generous rest between intervals. There is no reason to shorten the rest between strides as this defeats the purpose of such neuromuscular development. This is not meant to be a session that fatigues the body in the same way a hard workout or long run would. Strides would be considered neural training. In simple terms, this just means strides are meant to teach the body or prepare the body to run fast more efficiently. One doesn’t need to be weary of doing these after easy runs or before a race effort. These will not really add additional fatigue from an aerobic or muscular standpoint, as they are more so a stimulus for the CNS (central nervous system) and cover such a short distance that it will not overly tax the aerobic system (“wake up” sprints for the body).
So how can you incorporate these into your weekly routine? You can start by adding in 2-3 strides after an easy run each week. You can do this on a flat road, on a track or in a grass field. Build up to near maximal speed over the course of about 20 seconds. Focus on your posture, controlled arm swim and quick leg turnover. Make sure to take enough recovery in between where your heart rate has come down from the previous stride. You can gradually progress with how many times a week you do strides and the quantity. You will notice a difference in your efficiency at greater speeds in no time. They are an easy way to add another layer to your training without adding a lot of time or additional complication.