Updated: Nov 14, 2018
"I'm running 100km and what the hell are strides?"
It's base building season for those of us running Ultra-Trail Australia. But what exactly is the base phase and how do we define it? The base phase can be defined as a period of training designed to prepare you for the demands of race specific workouts and harder training down the track. We can also look at the base phase as being a foundation, or introduction phase - perfect to return to after some time off with injury or for new runners in the early stages of aerobic development.
The main component of the base phase and one we have discussed in a previous blog post is easy running. Today we will delve into another component of the base phase and discover the benefit and importance of including strides in your training plan during the journey towards Ultra-Trail Australia.
What are strides?
Strides are 10-30 seconds of speed up to a fast pace of running you can sustain without compromising your running mechanics and level of comfort. For well trained runners this may be around mile race pace, for less experienced runners the pace is subjectively hard. The goal is to stay in control and to run with good form.
I'm running an ultra marathon, why would I need to do that?
Strides develop and improve your running economy (or the amount of energy you use to run). Strides develop your neuromuscular pathways, teaching your body and brain to become comfortable at faster speeds. Strides recruit your fast twitch muscle fibres, responsible for the production of speed and power. Would you like your easier pace to feel easier? Or your fast pace to be faster? Strides are a great place to start! Strides also serve as a great platform for future workouts with more volume and varied intensity.
Ok, so when do I do them?
They are best paired with easy runs, as well as before workouts to facilitate the neuromuscular (brain > body) demands of running at intensity. Strides are perfect in the period between your warm up and workout - think of a race car revving the engine during a practice lap. Do you find yourself heading out the door on a Monday feeling sluggish after the weekend long run? Throw in four to six, 20 second strides with about a minute rest at the end of your easy run to bring the legs back to life. The priority with strides is to feel light, fast and 'poppy'. If you need more rest between strides then take additional rest to prioritise that feeling. If you're starting out, add in some strides at the end of two easy runs.
Does it matter where I do them?
Not necessarily. A grass oval is a great place to run strides, as is a dirt path or fire trail. Generally speaking, a softer surface should eliminate some of the ground force and skeletal stress associated with running fast and also feels nice under foot. If you don't have access to any of the above don't fret, the footpath out the front of your house or a quiet street is perfect and can also serve as a reminder to do your strides each time you finish your run.
What are you waiting for? Get out there!