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Strides (relaxed sprinting/stride-outs)

Lydiard training pyramid

Strides are generally 10-25 second (50-150m for most runners) controlled sprints.

Where aerobic runs focus on the cardiovascular system and anaerobic runs the metabolic system, strides improve neuromuscular coordination (the brain’s ability to fire motor units in muscles quickly and efficiently).

Strides can be employed with benefits throughout all phases of your training programme.

The purpose of strides is largely neuromuscular: to increase stride rate by recruiting fast-twitch motor units (muscle fibers), which increases speed and, more importantly, to increase stride length by increasing joint mobility (especially at the hip) and increasing leg muscle power, causing a greater propulsive thrust.  The short bursts of speed also improve your coordination and running form.  - Dr Jason Karp

Instruction: 

6 – 10 x 100m with jog-walk recovery interval

  1. Warm-up for 15 minutes.
  2. Stride-out 10 times over approximately 100m. Run fast but without tension.
  3. Let your body decelerate naturally instead of stopping quickly.
  4. The key is relaxed fast - such as starting a 5k race.
  5. Jog back to the start – take about 2-3 minutes of recovery jog so you have completely recovered your breathing.
  6. Cool-down 10 – 15 minutes.

“Run about 100m fast, concentrating on pulling the legs through fast, rather than on driving off the back leg, by using the quadriceps and lower stomach muscles. Try to maintain a near-normal stride and move the legs fast. Jog 300m before repeating. Always run the fast work with the wind.”- Arthur Lydiard, Running to the Top

Important points:

  • Estimating distance: approximation is fine. Many street lampposts are about 100 yards apart and soccer fields are about 100 yards long. A walking stride is about 3/4 meter so you can approximate 100 meters by taking 120-140 walking strides.
  • Always run strides with the wind at your back.

Rate of perceived effort:

2-6

Experienced competitors/elites:

Experienced competitors are naturally faster and can perform strides over slightly longer distances as long as they keep the movement relaxed and the recovery periods long enough to get their breath back. Track athletes in particular should supplement their stride sessions with sprint training focused on stride length, leg turn-over, high-knee lift, heel flick, acceleration and running tall.

Adaptations

  • Anaerobic high energy phosphate metabolism (alactic metabolism)
  • Neuromuscular coordination
  • Speed

Skill:

  • Relaxation while running fast
  • Practice generating speed through four positive focuses, don’t think “hard” think: relaxed, fast, light and tall

“It is important to try and relax during races and training by running varying distance from 100m to 300m. Keeping the upper body relaxed and concentrating on running with a good technique will help you run faster times without being basically fitter.” – Arthur Lydiard, Running to the Top

Biggest mistakes:

  • Forcing speed by tensing muscles and reinforcing poor form
  • Not allowing adequate recovery by running too fast in-between and forcing the body into anaerobic glycolysis (turning your easy day into a light anaerobic interval session)

Vasala and Kip Keino showcasing perfect sprint formVariations

Longer strides: Lydiard employed many different combinations of distance and repetitions in his programmes. As you progress through the phases of training you can change the 10x100m workout to 4x300m or 3x200m; the permutations are endless but generally don’t stride any longer than about 25 seconds strides as this will start to induce an acidosis similar to what intervals create and make it difficult to maintain relaxed form.

Supplementary strides: strides can be tagged onto other sessions provided these are not hard workouts. Performing strides in a severely fatigued state defeats the purpose of the workout but a set of 50m strides following an easy aerobic run helps maintain running form and doubles up as stretching.

Terrain: strides can be done anywhere – track, road, park, trail, sports field… Find a flat area where you don’t have to worry about twisting your ankles.

Parts of the workout descriptions are adapted from BreakThrough Running with permission.

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