Millennium Running Club – Winter Session Training Tip 2
Improving Stride Rate and Stride Length-Does It Matter?
The answer is a quite simple “YES.” Increasing your stride rate (frequency) and stride length will improve your running performance. Stride rate is the number of steps taken per minute during your run, while stride length is the distance taken between each step. Running speed is a product of stride rate and stride length. Increase your stride rate or length, and you will run faster…simple, right? Yes, but it will take some time and effort on your part in order to see improvement. Stride rate is the easier component to improve, so we will focus primarily on it. Most competitive runners have a stride rate of 180, although it may vary between 170 and 190. So, how do we find our stride rate? Begin your daily run and ease into your comfortable pace. Once you are running in a “steady state” mode, count the number of left and right strides taken per 10 seconds and multiply by 6, or count the number of strides taken in 30 seconds and multiply by 2.
If you own a Garmin watch or something similar, it may keep track of stride rate for you. Once you have your stride rate, and it is slower than 170, consciously make an effort to take quicker steps while counting your strides, 3 to 5 different times during your run. Do NOT worry about stride length. When trying to improve your stride rate, work toward small, 5-10 step improvements. At first, you might feel that it is taking more effort while working on your new stride rate. Don’t worry, the body will adapt and you will become more comfortable and efficient with your new rate in just a few weeks.
Performing 8 to 10×100 meter strides with emphasis on fast feet after an easy training run, 3 times weekly is another great way to improve stride rate and promote good running form. Similar to running strides after your run, are running 8 to 10 short (less than a minute) accelerations in the middle of an easy run. Just mix it up if you wish, running strides one day, and accelerations on another day, during 2 or 3 of your runs per week. Maintaining running efficiency while increasing your stride rate will pay big dividends. Increasing your rate by 5 strides per minute will save you approximately 15-20 seconds per mile!
Just a short comment about your stride length. Do not consciously try to lengthen it. Let your stride length change by itself. This may not make sense, but deliberately changing your stride length will decrease your running efficiency, causing you to run with more effort, resulting in slower race or workout times. Everyone has an optimal stride length which will change all by itself as your running form improves and your muscles get stronger. How can we make those muscles stronger? There are several options. Running more weekly miles, adding a longer run, adding strides, accelerations, and speed sessions, and running hills will all strengthen those muscles. A schedule needs to be very carefully planned, however, so that you don’t over-do it. Once again, the rewards are great. If your stride length is increased by just 1 inch, you will improve by 15 seconds per mile.
So here is the bottom line for all of us to remember. Build a running base, add variety to your training, and focus on good running form along with a quick stride rate. If done gradually along with ample rest or recovery, we will all evolve into faster runners.