Summer’s almost done and the cooler, dryer weather is right around the corner. For many, it’s marathon, while for many others, it’s time to start cranking up the mileage and long runs for half marathons and marathons later this fall. Or, for the two biggies in the Austin Distance Challenge: The 3M Half (January 24) and/or the Austin Marathon/Half ( February 14).
If that sounds like you, it’s about time you incorporate strides into a regular part of your routine. Undoubtedly, you’ve either heard about the value of strides or perhaps seen one of the many Austin training groups doing short sprints after their workouts on the Auditorium Shores grass or at Austin HS.
Most runners do strides, but typically do 50 to 100-meter pickups as a way to warm up for speed work or races. Doing strides as part of a warm up, is the best way to ease gently into faster running. By briefly simulating race pace or just fast running by doing a few strides, you get the mind and body ready to run or race fast.
All well and good, but you should also consider doing 7-10 strides after several of your daily workouts. Doing so, will pay dividends in holding onto your quick running form, particularly after long, slow runs. Strides are also a great way to sneak in a little speed work without spending an entire workout doing it.
Strides are easy to do, but you need to do them consistently. Don’t even think about whether you should do them or not or you’re too tired or wiped out. After finishing a run, just launch into a minimum of five strides and a maximum of 10.
Don’t worry about your speed as much as your form.
1. Do strides right away. After finishing your run, do your strides immediately—before you cool down, stretch or relax with a cold drink.
2. Try to finish your run on a flat, straight stretch of road or trail where you can do your strides without any traffic. Auditorium Shores is a good spot to do strides. So is Zilker Park or Austin High where you can do your strides on the track or on the grass.
3. Increase your speed gradually. When you begin a stride, accelerate to top speed (maybe 75-80 percent of sprint speed) for the first third of the run, hold that top speed for the next third and for the final third of the stride, decelerate.
4. Recover. A typical stride should take about 30-45 seconds so you should do a jog recovery (or walk) for that length of time before launching into the next one. If you’re still winded, lengthen the recovery.
5. Stride back. After recovering, simply stride back in the opposite direction for about the same distance.
6. Forget the watch. Don’t worry about timing the strides. It doesn’t really matter. Nor is the exact distance important. The effort and the ability to hold onto that top-speed form is what counts.
7. Think quick leg turnover. Emphasize quick legs and arms. Focus on running tall and even.