How Should I Run Strides – An overview

The first thing we need to establish when we talk about “running strides,” is that it’s different than using the term stride to describe a runner’s unique biomechanics. So “She has a beautiful stride” or “He has the perfect stride for the marathon” is not the way we’re using the term. In this discussion strides are short distances run at race pace or faster. Strides can be done the day before a workout, done in the final minutes before a workout or done in the final minutes before a race.

It’s worth noting that one of my coaching influences, sprint coach Vince Anderson, never uses the term strides with his sprinters because he thinks that sprinters hear “strides” and they interpret it as “loaf.” So the term may best be used stride for distance runners, for whom the term stride means running a short distance at race pace or faster.

Strides are typically 100m to 150m in length, but they can also be assigned as a duration of time. When using time you could say 4 x 30 seconds at 5k pace with 60 seconds of easy running between the strides. So that’s 30 seconds run at 5k pace, 60 seconds of jogging, 30 seconds at 5k pace, 60 seconds of jogging, 30 seconds at 5k pace, 60 seconds of jogging, and finally 30 seconds at 5k pace. This is the assignment I give most of my adult runners the day before a workout. Why? Well, most of these runners are training for the half marathon or the marathon and when they run 5k pace their neuromuscular system is reminded that it can work at paces faster than half marathon and marathon pace. There is a greater neuromuscular demand – more motor units are called upon – and and there are biomechanical changes, either in stride length, stride frequency, or both Many adult runners become metronomes who can run marathon pace all day, yet can’t run a 5k that correlates to their fitness (see if your PRs correlate to one another). With adults I like them to simply do these strides in the last third of their easy run. So if they run 45 minutes for an easy day, then they do these four strides sometime after the 30 minute mark of the run. Strides are also important for workouts and before races. I like 3-4 strides to be the last part of the warm-up before a fast workout and I definitely want to see people doing 3-4 strides in the final minutes before a race. Again, you want to “wake up” the neuromuscular system, making sure your body is ready for the demands of the race.

My college coach liked to talk about Basic Proficiency Maintenance days, or BPM days. This was a day where you ran an easy aerobic run to maintain a general level of aerobic fitness, but also a day where you ran some strides to maintain a basic proficiency at race pace. For example, a 1,500m runner may run 5 x 100m at 1,500m pace (with a 300m jog) just to make sure that they will be able to not only workout at that pace, but be able to run that pace during a race. For the high school track athlete or the collegiate track athlete strides should be done on the track and timed. There is not a 150m mark on most tracks, so coaches will need to use a measuring wheel and mark that spot inside lane one.

How do you run strides properly? You should be running with good posture, meaning a 1-2º forward lean. Your ankles should feel “poppy” and your arm action will obviously be more active compared to your slower running paces. For most runners a stride feels like a fun, efficient experience. And there is some research to show that running at race pace will improve your stride and improve your efficiency. You can read more about this in Matt Fitzgerald’s book Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel for more information. It’s a fantastic read.

Those are the basics of how to run strides. The strides that adult marathoners should be doing and high school 1,600m runners should be doing are different and I’ll go into detail in future posts.

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  • Darren Brown

    Sarah Brown’s workout today = 45min EZ, 6xStride & Hurdle Drills. Sounds like a prime example of a BPM day. For Mid-D athletes, I also prefer having strides done barefoot on soft surfaces (turf or “level/even” grass) as well to prime the lower legs/ankles for the imbalances of being up on toes in spikes without actually having to wear spikes multiple times a week.

    As a funny side … when coaching community runners/beginners, the hardest part of training to describe in words is a stride! Try doing it without saying stride … it’s tough. I have turned to the term “elevated” running pace, slightly faster than 5k effort, but for a beginner, it’s hard for them to even decipher 5k effort.

  • Anonymous

    To all high school coaches and runners that visit this site: Hey, I encourage you all to attend or send some campers to Jay’s Boulder Running Camps! He’s not asking me to post this, I’m a 4 time veteran and have sent 4 crews of 12 ~ 20 kids. We’re going back again. I promise you it’ll be a camp you and your kids will love. 5 days of great training, great teaching, & great fun! Start XC 2013 off on the right foot. -Adam Kedge, Albuquerque Academy

  • Matt Ball

    Thanks for this, Jay. Good to know the motivation.
    Since you probably have a lot of readers soon to enter into summer base training for XC, do you have thoughts on strides throughout the summer?
    And thank for the link to the McMillan page!

  • Mark Reams

    I challenged a friend of mine to the “strider challenge” a while back. For one entire month, every run that wasn’t a tempo run or interal run had to include strides. They are not overly stressful, and it really helped us both. We agreed on an exception for the day after a race.

    Another thing that I think is important is that the runner should try to run “relaxed”. If the runner feels tension in the shoulders, etc., they need to relax and loosen up.

  • Matt Ball

    I would like to enthusiastically endorse this, and point out you don’t have to be a star at a nationally-ranked program like Coach Kedge’s. Our daughter is much more a scholar (a National Merit Scholar at Pomona College) than a jock, but her two times at Jay’s camp during HS are some of her best memories! Her 1600 PR when she went the first time was only 6:00, yet she got a ton out of the camp — and had *loads* of fun! She’s a bit faster now (5:49) and will be a counselor there this summer, having run XC and track for Pomona-Pitzer.
    Whatever your level, I’m sure you’ll love Jay’s camp!

  • Matt Ball

    This is great. If I could emphasize two things to runners, it would be to learn to run relaxed when running hard, and to realize your get stronger and faster while rebuilding in your recovery.

  • Mark Eichenlaub

    Jay, I am glad you mentioned the ankle thing. I don’t know about the other coaches but that one is very easy to forget and if that is an area of weakness that can lead to overreliance on other muscles…leading to injury.

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  • CoachJay
  • CoachJay

    Here is the foot/ankle routine from the Wharton Flexibility DVD.

    And here are some foot and lower leg strengthening exercises from the Wharton Strengthening DVD–A

  • Brad Patterson

    This is a brilliant idea, thanks for sharing! I think I am going to try to do that this month of June. I have always said to myself “yeah, I should really do some strides” but seem to get lazy (or rushed) on my early AM runs and don’t end up doing them. I think the idea of a month of challenge is a good one.

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  • Brandon @gtidirt

    Hey coach, here’s the last two weeks for context –

    Sunday – AM 10 miles easy / PM 6 miles w/ 6x 15 sec hard stride

    Monday – AM 5 miles easy / PM AnT 3 mi, 2 mi, 1 mi with 1:00 rest in 15:30, 10:15, 4:59

    Tuesday – AM 7 miles easy / PM 7 miles easy

    Wednesday – AM 4.5 miles easy with 4x 100m stride / PM 4:1, 3:2, 4:1 vVO2 workout followed by 3 x 200m in 29, 28, 27

    Thursday – travel day, coaching, AM 5 miles easy / PM 7 miles hilly

    Friday – AM 7 miles hilly / PM 9 miles easy

    Saturday – AM 9 miles regeneration / PM 6 miles easy


    Sunday – travel day AM 6 miles easy / PM 10 miles easy followed by 4 x 15 sec strides

    Monday – AM 10 miles easy / PM 7 miles easy with med ball tosses (overhead back, squat push, hop hop toss)

    Tuesday – AM 4.5 miles easy / PM vVO2 8x 400m @ 62-63 (1:00 rest), 200m in 27

    Wednesday – AM 6 miles regeneration / PM 7 miles easy

    Thursday – AM 10 miles w/ 6 @ maintenance 6:05 pace and 3x 200m in 31, 29, 28 / PM 6 miles easy

    Friday – AM 8 miles easy / PM 5 miles easy with 4x 100m stride

    Saturday – AM 4 miles easy / PM 5.5 miles easy with 2x 30 sec hard (1:00 easy) and 3x 15 sec hard stride


    Sunday – AM 12 min shakeout / later AM 8k race in 23:58.

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