Once you've addressed your tissue quality and joint mobility and, at a bare minimum, woken up your sleepy butt muscles, you are ready to incorporate a highly effective form of speed training into your routine: Strides!
The thing I love about strides is that they don't carry the same injury risk as all out sprinting, but give nearly the same benefits.
- Make sure you have good tissue quality and joint mobility
- Relax, no straining, ever.
- Think “smooth acceleration”, rather than abruptly going from 0-60 in 1 second
- 60-100m is a typical distance for strides
- Can be done at any point during the run, but at the end is most common
- Less is more, especially at first
- Focus on your form!
How To Do “Strides”
After a thorough warm up (at least 15 minutes), you can think about doing a series of accelerations called strides. I usually do them at the end of an easy run, but there's no reason not to simply sprinkle them randomly throughout the middle of a run, either.
You'll start off at 5K pace and smoothly accelerate to nearly 400m pace. In other words, you start off at a strong pace and progressively speed up until you are close to sprinting. In other, other words, start off at 60% of your max speed and build up to 90%.
Probably the most important thing is to stay very relaxed and to focus on your form.
Relaxing the face and shoulders will have a great effect on the rest of the body. Avoid clenching your teeth and balling your hand into a tight fist. The old cue still applies: pretend you're holding a potato chip between your thumb and forefinger as you run.
Since most people tend to overstride, allowing their heel to crash down well in front of their body, I will often use the cues “put your foot down early” or “step over and down”.
With strides (and sprinting), the idea is to accelerate and to do that you need power. Where does that power come from? Well, long story short, it comes from your foot forcefully pushing into the ground. So, rather than spinning your wheels and simply turning your legs over, think about applying power to the ground. Really push that ground behind you!
Unlike sprints, which require lots of recovery, strides don't require much. You're welcome to walk or jog back to the beginning and repeat. Most commonly, distance runners jog back for recovery.
To start incorporating strides, try the following progression:
|Distance||Number of Repetitions|
For most runners, simply doing 8 x 100m strides 2-3 days per week along with a decent amount of mileage will prove to be highly effective in transforming from snail to hare. Be sure to increase mileage first, THEN add the strides. Adding both at the same time is a mistake and could get ya hurt.
If you really want to take it to the next level (and the injury risk that comes along with that!), though, stay tuned for part 4: sprints!
PS: This is the kind of stuff I've been incorporating with the lululemon Run Club every Thursday night. Everyone has improved since we started doing purposeful workouts this spring. If you're local, join us!!