Running Strides Guide: Everything You Need To Know To Get Faster

Level up your next training run by sprinkling in some strides

Running strides are to be done at near max effort for short periods of time.

Running strides are one of the foundational types of running drills that you can add to the end of a run to improve your maximum speed, neuromuscular coordination, and turnover.

Beginners and distance runners focusing on shorter distance races may also do an entire strides workout with pick-ups done at your top speed or accelerations run either on the track, a grassy field, or just interspersed within a regular shorter distance run.

Sprinters can also use strides to work on running form, accelerations, and biomechanics for quick turnover.1Haugen, T., Seiler, S., Sandbakk, Ø., & Tønnessen, E. (2019). The Training and Development of Elite Sprint Performance: an Integration of Scientific and Best Practice Literature. Sports Medicine – Open5(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-019-0221-0

In this guide, we will discuss how to run strides, the benefits of strides running drills and strides workouts, the differences between strides and other types of speed workouts and sprints, and tips for running strides.

We will cover: 

Let’s jump in!

A person running strides.

What Are Strides in Running?

Running strides, sometimes called stride-outs or striders, involve short sprints or short bursts of sprinting that are done at a very fast pace; generally, all-out sprinting or running at your top speed.

Striders are also sometimes performed as accelerations, meaning you would start at a relatively fast speed but not your top speed. 

Here, the focus is on building up your speed throughout the duration of the stride-out until you are at your maximum speed by the end of the stride rep.

How Long Should Each Stride Be During a Running Workout?

There isn’t a single set stride length distance for how long or how far you should run strides, but most strides are between 50 and 100m or so.

Like other running coaches, I usually have beginners run strides that are a little bit shorter and not at their top speed, but rather a fast running pace (think mile race pace).

This can help decrease the risk of injury for distance runners new to doing any faster running.

As you get more comfortable with running faster, we will gradually transition to sprinting strides that eventually become performed at an all-out running pace.

A person running strides.

How Do You Run Strides?

Generally, strides are run on the track or the infield of the track or some other flat surface.

This is a distinguishing feature of strides workouts versus hill sprints, which are, of course, always run on an incline.

It also differentiates between strides and accelerations on the track, such as ins and outs workouts or interval workouts.

Strides don’t have to be run on the track. 

For example, almost every cross-country runner will run several strides on the grass, cinder, or other off-road terrain at the start line of a cross-country race.

Distance runners who are going to run strides at the end of a run can just run the stride on the road where they finish the run if there isn’t any grass or track surface nearby.

This flexibility makes strides a very versatile way to add short bursts of speed work into almost any type of run.

A person running strides.

There isn’t one solitary purpose of strides.

This is because there are numerous benefits of adding strides to your training plan, and the particular benefits of strides or the goal with running strides will vary for distance runners versus sprinters, and when you are performing strides in your workouts.

For example, sprinters might use strides as a running drill as part of a warm-up for another sprint workout, or they might do an entire strides workout where the workout’s focus is the strides themselves.

There, they will build up to adding more strides over time while focusing on proper running form, biomechanics, explosive power for accelerations, and learning how to safely decelerate out of a stride.

In contrast, distance runners might add strides at the end of a run to build in some faster running on an easy day to keep their legs sharp.

I almost always have distance runners run strides at the end of their warm-up on race day before the gun goes off, particularly if they are running faster.

A person running on the road.

The same holds true for performing striders at the end of a warm-up before a hard workout on the track.

These short bursts of fast running before the race or hard workout begins will help “wake up“ your neuromuscular system and fast-twitch muscles so that you are ready to hit the ground running when the gun goes off.

Strides are also a great initial introduction to speed work for beginners.

Strides are much less intimidating than intervals on the track because they are generally not timed and they are much shorter bursts of fast running than most repeats in speed workouts. 

In this way, strides can get you used to doing some pick-ups before adding hard workouts into your training plan.

A person running strides.

What Are the Benefits of Incorporating Running Strides into My Running Routine?

Here are some of the top benefits of running strides for distance runners and sprinters alike:

  • Helping to improve running economy2Skovgaard, C., Christiansen, D., Christensen, P. M., Almquist, N. W., Thomassen, M., & Bangsbo, J. (2018). Effect of speed endurance training and reduced training volume on running economy and single muscle fiber adaptations in trained runners. Physiological Reports6(3), e13601. https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.13601 and aerobic capacity.3Gist, N. H., Fedewa, M. V., Dishman, R. K., & Cureton, K. J. (2013). Sprint Interval Training Effects on Aerobic Capacity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine44(2), 269–279. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-013-0115-0
  • Helping improve neuromuscular coordination so that you can have a quick turnover.
  • Strengthening fast-twitch muscle fibers.
  • Improving your ability to accelerate and decelerate, which can be helpful for trail running, cross country running, and road running where there are a lot of directional changes.
  • Building confidence for faster running.
  • Improving all-out maximum running speed.4Koral, J., Oranchuk, D. J., Herrera, R., & Millet, G. Y. (2017). Six Sessions of Sprint Interval Training improves running performance in trained athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research32(3), 1. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000002286
  • Helping build up to harder workouts for beginners.
  • Serving as a good warm-up running drill to increase heart rate.
A person running strides.

How Do You Add Strides to Your Running Routine?

Here are a few sample strides workouts or ways that you can incorporate running strides into your training plan:

#1: Strides Before a Race or Hard Workout 

Whether you are racing a cross-country 5k race, a half marathon on the roads, or going to the track for a speed workout, running a few strides before the start is an important part of your warm-up routine to get your fast twitch muscles firing and your body and mind in the headspace for a fast run.

Make sure that you have warmed up for at least 10 minutes (1 mile or 1-2 km).

Then, run 4 to 8 stride-outs.

Start your first stride at a comfortably fast running pace (I generally recommend mile race pace as a good starting point).

With each stride repetition, build up your speed so that you are at your top speed by the last stride.

Take a full recovery in between each strider.

Follow up with dynamic stretches, and then prepare for a great race or workout!

#2: Strides At the End of a Run

Before you do a cool down, you can run strides at the end of an easy run.

This allows you to build some speed work on an easy day without overly taxing your neuromuscular system.

Simply finish your run and run 4 to 6 times 50 to 100m or 15 seconds all out. Take a full recovery in between each stride by walking around.

After your strides, do an easy cooldown of a couple of minutes of jogging or brisk walking until your heart rate has returned to resting levels.

People running on the track.

#3: Strides Workout

Beginners might do an entire workout with running strides.

Here, you want to do some easy jogging for 10 minutes, or brisk walking and easy jogging if you are just building up your distance.

It is also a good idea to do a dynamic stretch routine before you are going to be doing any type of all-out sprinting.

Leg swings, walking lunges, bounding drills, and some other running drills such as high knees and A skips can be helpful to prime your fast-twitch muscle fibers for fast running.

Then, run strides on the track. 

Accelerate on the straightaway of the track until you are about 3/4 of the way down the 100 m straight away.

Then, start to decelerate to an easy jog.

When you get to the start of the curve, begin walking so that you can have a full recovery.

Walk the entire curve.

Then, start jogging and then quickly accelerate towards your top speed as you get back to the next straightaway.

Again, decelerate to an easy jog to come out of the strider once you are about 3/4 of the way down the straightaway.

Start with two full laps of this stride running workout.

As your fitness level improves, you can do additional laps, but the focus should always be on good form and quick turnover.

If you find that you are not able to maintain your top speed with each subsequent pick-up in a workout, you should end the workout and do a good cool down.

The entire purpose of this type of strides workout is to build speed and improve your running form and biomechanics, so you don’t want to continue pushing through once any of these areas becomes compromised due to fatigue.

If you would like to add even more speedwork workouts to your training program, check out this next guide:

References

  • 1
    Haugen, T., Seiler, S., Sandbakk, Ø., & Tønnessen, E. (2019). The Training and Development of Elite Sprint Performance: an Integration of Scientific and Best Practice Literature. Sports Medicine – Open5(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-019-0221-0
  • 2
    Skovgaard, C., Christiansen, D., Christensen, P. M., Almquist, N. W., Thomassen, M., & Bangsbo, J. (2018). Effect of speed endurance training and reduced training volume on running economy and single muscle fiber adaptations in trained runners. Physiological Reports6(3), e13601. https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.13601
  • 3
    Gist, N. H., Fedewa, M. V., Dishman, R. K., & Cureton, K. J. (2013). Sprint Interval Training Effects on Aerobic Capacity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine44(2), 269–279. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-013-0115-0
  • 4
    Koral, J., Oranchuk, D. J., Herrera, R., & Millet, G. Y. (2017). Six Sessions of Sprint Interval Training improves running performance in trained athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research32(3), 1. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000002286
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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