Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Stride to keep your Stride

I assume I'm like many runners that spend 80% or so of their running at a nice easy aerobic level, which for me is the 8:00 - 8:30 pace range.   I don't spend a ton of time running at race pace which is the 5:45 - 6:20 pace for me (5k & 10k paces).  At my age (42 yrs. old) that would be a recipe for injury to run too much at race pace, however, I don't want to lose my speed nor my stride so how do you maintain it with a 80/20 or 85/15 allocation of easy running to race pace running?

The answer is strides, or some call them "pick ups," as part of your easy aerobic running.  Other than recovery runs, I throw in 8-15 strides as part of my easy runs which for me is 30-60 second spurts at a race pace "effort level."  Notice I said "effort level" and not actual pace.  It's about the feel and effort level of race pace.  I don't take it down to 5k race pace but anything between 10k and half marathon pace is fine for that short period of time.  One wrinkle for me, since I don't run very often with a watch or Garmin, is I know my body and stride well enough that I know my cadence account against pace range so for me that means 60-180 steps which will fall within that 30 sec. to 1 min. time range.  It's the strides (or pick ups) that keeps you body in race pace tune but remember it's not about actual time or pace.  The focus is effort and starting slow with the goal of feeling as if you are at the goal race pace by the last 5-10 seconds of the stride out (or pick up).

Give it a try and let me know what you think.  One final word of caution.  As you do the strides, you will start to loosen up and likely feel good but DO NOT allow yourself to turn a nice easy run with strides into a tempo or race pace run.  You'll need to exercise discipline otherwise you and your body will pay dearly a few days later and it's a recipe for injury.



  1. Yeah yeah's me commenting again. I sometimes find it difficult to be a silent observer. I am a huge fan of strides. I love them. I think I've been doing mine a little different. I pretty much run as hard as I can, while maintaining good form, for about 30 seconds. I haven't raced a lot of shorter races. In fact I haven't done an official 5K since I was a brand new 13 min/mile runner. I'm interested in trying the strides a little different. I find that I am beat after about 4 or 5. I'm curious if I'm pushing them too hard. Interesting stuff Harry.

  2. Lydia, sounds pretty good to me. My only comment would be around "running as hard" as you can. There's no absolutes but most of the elite runners that I learned from start out at a comfortable pace with the goal of being at or near race pace the last 5 seconds or so of the stride.

    The goal is not to tax the body but more of muscle memory activity to remind the body of your race pace form. You should end the strides feeling like you could do a few more. If you are beat, then you likely ran them too hard.

    Most folks would be surprised that you don't need that much race pace training but it depends on the distance your running, however, even elite marathoners are still in their aerobic zone albiet at a 4:45 - 5:00 pace (just insane!!!) but they are still in their aerobic zone otherwise they would run out of gas too soon.

    The overall concept is if you run regularly and as often as possible and run comfortably hard but not so hard that you can't continue that over time you will naturally increase your pace. It actually works . . . if my goal is 6:00 per mile pace for a 5k, I do very little 6:00 pace training other than some 200 & 400 meter sprinting at faster than 6:00 pace but in small does. If I'm hitting the 6:30 pace mark in my tempo, I know I'll hit 6:00 in a race as the adrenalin and being in the moment will result in a faster pace. This is why I train "by effort level." The same effort I give in a training tempo run will result in a faster time on race day although it's the same effort level.

    It sounds like your strides should be specific anaerobic training if you are running that hard. Strides should be easier and more comfortable. For the really hard stuff, keep it to 200, 400 and 600 meters. I highly recommend you limit this type of training. I'm extremely careful when I do anaerobic drills as it taxes the body (it's less than 5% of my overall running).

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