A stride by any other name…would be a strider. For whatever reason in my coaching lexicon I call what many others call a stride, a strider. I picked up the term strider in high school (maybe I just misheard Coach Wilson.) I endured teasing for calling them striders in college and now may have scarred hundreds of athletes by referring to these short sprints by the wrong name.
So what is a strider? It’s a short sprint, 60 to 150 meters. In order to develop or maintain speed, about one to two percent of your weekly mileage should be sprints. If you run thirty miles a week, that’s between 400-1000 meters of sprint work. Why are striders important? Speed is important, obviously, during a race because the name of the game is to go from point A to point B quickly. Even if you are a marathoner, speed is an aspect of training that makes you a complete runner and should not be overlooked. Strider drills help you maintain leg turnover (something that may decrease as you age if you don’t do work to maintain it). Studies show that the ideal stride rate is 180 steps per minute. If your turnover is less than 180 steps per minute strider drills can help increase it up towards the 180 mark.
Most coaches recommend including sprint work, like striders, once or twice a week in all phases of training and throughout the year. I recommend doing the striders at the end the main part of your workout to practice running fast when your legs are fatigued.
There are a variety of ways you can incorporate striders into your workouts. Some of my favorite striders are:
1. 4-6 X 100 meters
Sprint 100 meters while focusing on being smooth and relaxed. Pretend you are running the last 100 meters of a race. After each strider, walk back to where you started. This is your recovery time. Don’t rush this part. If you do, you won’t be rested for the next strider and will run it slower than desired.
2. 4-6 X 60 meters
Same as above except you want to run at, or close to, your top speed. Get up to that speed as soon as you can (hopefully within a few steps) and then hold the speed until the 60 meter mark.
3. 6-8 X :08 hill sprints
On a medium steep hill (preferably grass or dirt trail) sprint hard for eight seconds. Then walk back down to where you started and do it again. Repeat until you’ve done six to eight hill sprints.
4. Excalibur striders
2 X 100 meters at 80% effort
2 X 90 meters at 90% effort
2 X 80 meters at 100% effort
5. Acceleration 150’s
4 X 150 meters run as: 75% for the first 50 meters, 85% for the middle 50 meters, 95% to 100% for the last 50 meters.
Accelerating within the same strider is important to teach the body how to “change gears,” to go from one speed to a faster speed while running. This is a particularly good drill because even though you are going pretty fast during the middle 50 meters (85%), you have to dig down and find a way to go faster for the last 50 meters…just like you might have to do at the end of a race to pass someone, to hold off a fast charging runner, or to dip under a certain time. We’ve all been there: the finish line clock comes into view with about 50 meters to go (or maybe 75 meters if you have better eyesight than me), it reads XX:53 and you know you need to kick it in to get in under XX+1. This is the strider drill that will help you do that!
6. 4 X 60-100 meters
These are pre-race or pre-workout striders. They are the only striders that aren’t done at the end of the workout. These striders are to get your body ready to run fast (they get the heart rate up and prepare the leg muscles for what is about to happen). I consider these the final part of a warm-up. Unlike the others you don’t have to walk back to the original starting spot between each strider for recovery.
For all of these striders you want to get in the habit of running “through the finish line.” Don’t decelerate until after you pass the finish line. But then decelerate slowly to stop. It should take several steps before you can come to a complete stop. Attempting to stop on a dime at the finish line creates a lot of force on your legs and muscles that can lead to an injury.
For all but the last strider drill listed above you want to walk back to the starting line after each strider because that is your recovery time. You should be running fast enough that you are grateful for this time to walk, and catch your breath, and rest your legs a little. If you find you are not grateful for the recovery time, you may not be running the striders fast enough.
So go ahead and pick a few of the above listed strider drills or come up with your own. The point is to train yourself to run fast – whether you call them strides or striders, they will make you faster!