Running Strides Explained

Man and woman running fast
(Image credit: poba / Getty Images)

One of the easiest and smartest ways to improve your running is to incorporate strides into your routine. Strides can be added to different types of run, whether you use them to warm up beforehand or stretch your legs out afterwards, and many keen runners following a training plan will do strides once or twice a week.

To explain exactly what strides are and how to use them as part of your training plan, I spoke to running coach Andy Hobdell.

About Our Expert
About Our Expert
Andrew Hobdell

Andrew Hobdell is a running coach who has been coaching elite and amateur runners alike for decades. Hobdell has coached athletes to the last four Olympics, including Team GB middle-distance runner Andy Baddeley, and marathon runners Kevin Seaward and Paul Pollock who represented Ireland.

What Are Running Strides?

“Strides are intervals of around 100m, run at your one-mile pace,” says Hobdell. “That’s 85-95% effort—a controlled faster effort as opposed to 100% sprints.

“Begin your stride by easing into a fast pace in the initial 25m. It is important that you do not accelerate too quickly to help you avoid injury. In the next 25m you should have reached full speed and can focus on staying relaxed at a faster pace and letting your body do the work. Focus on your posture—it should be controlled, with no flailing arms, and you should be more on your toes rather than your heels. Then in the last 20m gradually reduce your speed down to a stop.

“The recovery after a stride is a nice relaxed walk back to where you started from, and then go again.”

How To Use Strides In Your Training

“I typically incorporate strides into a schedule in a number of ways,” says Hobdell.

“After an easy recovery run, strides help you work on your running mechanics—it’s a lot easier to focus on form when you’re not too tired. It helps you to think about how you’re running—on your toes and feeling relaxed—and makes faster running feel like a more natural process for the body.

“For those running longer distances it’s a great opportunity to inject some speedwork into the training plan, which will mostly be focused on slower speeds to build aerobic systems. When you’re marathon training, strides serve as a great way to stretch your legs after an easy session. It’s often the case in marathon training that the legs can get stale with the high mileage and tempo runs. Strides help to break this up and give more variety to your training.

“Strides are also great as part of the warm-up for a faster session or race. After an easy jog strides are a gentle way for the body to get used to the feeling of running faster.”

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.