We regularly hear the phrase “strides” within running jargon and the likelihood is that all of us runners will have come across it at some stage. Essentially strides are short, fast runs which are performed below full sprinting pace. Despite what the term says, you do not try to increase your stride length when doing them.
Strides confer a number of benefits and in this short article we review just some of these benefits.
- IMPROVE YOUR SPEED
Running fast, makes you fast – simple as. To get a little bit more technical, running fast aids in the development and recruitment of fast twitch muscles fibres, as well as improving your leg turnover or cadence, both of which enhance your speed.
- IMPROVE YOUR RUNNING ECONOMY
In a previous post we undertook a deep dive into running economy. This is a measure of how much oxygen you require to run a given distance at a given pace, or put more simply, how energy efficient your gait is. When you run fast, there is less margin for wasted or undesired motion, and your body has no choice but to become more efficient. Running fast also helps to improve tendon stiffness, which in turn leads to greater energy return from ground contact (we will discuss this in greater detail when we examine plyometrics in a subsequent article).
These are essentially fancy terms for firing up your nervous or neuromuscular system to the desired level. Performing strides as part of your warm up routine helps to fully activate these systems prior to a workout or a race. Similar effects can be obtained by performing strides the day before a race or key workout. Elongated strides can also help with O2 kinetics (again a topic for a subsequent blog post).
- EMBED RUNNING DRILLS
Running drills are designed to specifically induce improvements in your gait or biomechanics. They work by specifically targeting one specific aspect of your stride cycle. In order to derive the full benefit from them, you need to follow them up with some running. Strides are possibly the best method of embedding the gains derived from running drills into your running technique.
- WARM DOWN TOOL
When performed at the correct effort level and with the right protocol, strides can help to greatly reduce the level of lactic acid within your bloodstream.
- FEEL GOOD FACTOR
It is very difficult not to feel good after having done a set of strides. Dopamine is released into our bodies when we run fast. Dopamine is often referred to as the ‘reward’ molecule and it plays a central role in the experience of pleasure.
At MYP Coaching, strides are incorporated into the weekly training programme of every athlete in order to maximise all of these potential gains.