The Runner’s World triathlon training program I’m using calls for five different types of running throughout the 12 week schedule: Foundation, Strides, Transition, Tempo, and Threshold Intervals. A rather in depth article about how runners can train for a triathlon preceded the program but it didn’t go into detail about the various types of running (or swimming or biking for that matter) as there are definitions in the sidebar of the program. All of the work-outs made sense to me except for the description of Strides, which happens to be one of the first running work-outs on the schedule. The program defines it as “Run 20 seconds at 5k race pace; jog 40 seconds after each stride” and each run work-out says how many repetitions of this to do.
In my mind, a stride was the forward movement of the leg. I was baffled as to how I was to jog for 40 seconds in just one stride. But I knew what 5k race pace meant, so at first I would just sprint for the designated number of repetitions and not worry about the 40 seconds of jogging. The more I started to read about triathlon training, however, the more the term “strides” came up and the more I wanted to know the true meaning.
I posed the question about strides on Twitter and had some great instinct feedback from followers. One follower suggested that RW meant controlled sprints at race pace and referred me to an advanced marathon training plan by Hal Higdon in which he includes strides as part of the weekly work-out and refers to them as sprints at race pace with jogging as recovery. This made perfect sense to me and while I like the discipline of sprinting for a set period of time followed by a specific amount of recovery time, I agreed with @HellaSound on the fun informality of fartleks which can offer a similar work-out.
Another follower friend, @crossn81, chimed in confirming not just the importance of integrating strides into a training routine but also that “strides” is synonymous with sprints. He shared a post about stride drills which I found simple and helpful for understanding how far and how long each stride drill should be. A distance of 100 meters is a decent distance and within the first 30 meters you want to reach 80-90% maximum speed and maintain that pace for the full distance and then there is a 100 meter recovery jog. By repeating this several times, one could reach their lactate threshold, another good training goal.
All this talk about strides, which are really sprints, led me to focusing more on speed and recovery than it did form. Ironically, one of the better spinning instructors at my gym just handed out an article written by Christine Hinton, a running coach and columnist for Tri DC Magazine and it happened to be on actual running stride, as in form. In reading her article, I was reminded of how important it is to try to really focus on multiple aspects of running–form, speed, recovery, pace, breathing–in order to have the best possible run.
When sprinting, I’m inclined to lengthen my stride but this is not the most efficient way to run which is gained from the pushing motion of the back leg. Christine quotes author Thomas Miller and suggests that the best stride is “when the feet are more directly underneath the body and the knee is slightly bent and aligned with the foot as you land.” Do you know where your foot lands? On uphill runs, my feet, and most runners’ feet, naturally fall directly underneath due to the slight lean of running uphill. However, on a flat run I’m just not sure how consistent I am with my footfalls.
Knowing that I am not always running with the most efficient form, I have some work to do on my actual stride, particularly when I’m running strides. Happy sprinting!