As Fall progresses and Winter approaches, many runners are entering a base building period in their training. Along with easy miles, strides are often a key workout this time of year. However, Fall and Winter are marked by increased darkness, cold weather, and sometimes treacherous ice and snow on outside running surfaces. Treadmill workouts are an effective alternative this time of year. And, just because you are running on a treadmill, does not mean you have to give up on running strides.
Strides are a key running workout that help ingrain fast running form into your legs. Strides are 20-30 second efforts at ~90% of maximum running speed. Strides are not a sprint, but rather a gradual progression to a high pace, turnover running “stride”. Strides teach you to run fast with good and controlled form. At the end of the stride, you are not winded. Your heart rate should recover before beginning the next stride. The goal of strides is form not anaerobic fitness gains.
Strides prepare your body for running fast in future workouts. Inserting strides into a base period training block prepares your body for future fast workouts. Strides at the end of easy runs remind the body how running fast feels after a session of slower pace effort. Inserting strides before a workout or race prepares the legs for the upcoming quick turnover and intensity.
Although strides are typically run on a flat road, grass field, or track, strides can be run effectively on a treadmill with practice. You need to be comfortable starting with your feet on the side rails of the treadmill. Then, you need practice lowering your body and accelerating your feet to “hop” onto a fast-moving treadmill belt. For most, this action is unconsciously familiar and natural. Strides rely on the same motion, except the treadmill belt will be moving much faster.
To begin a treadmill stride, start running at a comfortable, easy pace. Then, increase the treadmill speed to slightly faster than your 5K effort. As the treadmill belt accelerates, you will gradually run faster. (Over time with practice, work on increasing your stride speed to 800 meter effort.) Hold the pace for 20-30 seconds.
Maintain good form while running your stride. Think fast and smooth. Land properly on your foot (not heel striking). Push back with each stride, driving your foot towards your butt. Aim for a long, open, and smooth stride. Your arms should be driving forward and backward at your sides and not crossing your centerline. Keep your head up with eyes looking forward.
At the end of the stride, use the arm rails to support your weight and hop back onto the side rails. Slow the treadmill to an easy pace and recover. Repeat the strides, beginning with a set of 4 and slowly working to 8-10 over the course of training. Depending on your treadmill, consider increasing the treadmill incline to 1-2%. At higher speeds, many treadmills rattle and shake, which can be stabilized by increasing the incline.
Running strides on a treadmill can be an effective and safe training tactic. Give it a shot and see if it helps increase your running speed. Best wishes cashing your running goals!