Running strides are a simple but effective tool for improving your running form and making you a more efficient runner. They’re loved by coaches for this very reason and you’ll often find them prescribed in our training plans. But what are they and how do you do them?
What are running strides?
Confusingly, you’ll also see running strides referred to as ‘pick-ups’ and ‘strider’ but all three are essentially the same thing. They’re short bursts of faster running where you’re concentrating on running with good form. They’re not all-out sprinting – they’re more like 85-90% of your maximum effort and for just 60 to 100 meters.
Strides are a chance for your body to learn new movement patterns that, over time, will be incorporated into your everyday running.
They can be used by runners of all levels. Elite runners will spend a lot of time doing strides along with running drills to improve their form, but beginner runners can benefit from doing them too as they’re a good first step towards adding interval training sessions to your running.
How to do running strides
Find a stretch of ground free from road crossings or obstacles, around 60-100m long. You’re not going to be running flat out, strides are about running strong with good form and faster than your usual pace but not sprinting.
For the first 15m, accelerate smoothly, then run strong for 30m. Then gradually decelerate to the end. Have a 30 second rest, then turn round and repeat for 4-6 reps. Remember, this is not sprinting, this is running strong and you should max out at no more than 90% of your top speed.
The key thing when doing strides is to concentrate on good running form. Think about just one element of good form on each rep:
- Think about running tall as though you have a balloon coming out the top of your head pulling you up.
- Relax your shoulders and lift your chest.
- Pump your arms concentrating on driving your elbows back.
- Drive through each stride by imagining you’re on a treadmill that has no power and you’re pushing the belt back with your foot.
When to do running strides
You should make sure that your body is properly warmed up before doing any strides, but there are plenty of times you can add them to your week. Strides can be added to the end of an easy run to wake up your legs a little. You could do them after a warm-up but before an interval session, or you can include them on race day after you’ve done a pre-race warm-up.