To become a faster runner, there’s really only two things you have to account for: the length of your stride and your turnover, or “stride rate”. Speed comes naturally when you combine these two factors, but the difficult part is finding the perfect combination of the two that’s economical.
Stride length varies on an individual basis and there is such a thing as overstriding, which is when you start to reach too far ahead with your lower leg and strike your heel. This, in turn, ends up reducing your turnover because it takes time for the rest of your body to catch up on the push off.
Many runners suggest that increasing turnover is an easy solution to overstriding. That makes sense. Your foot lands closer to your body when you strike mid-foot and there’s less distance to travel on the push off. Although, keep in mind that solely increasing one or the other doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re increasing speed… it’s a bit more technical than that. Steve Magness wrote about stride rates in greater detail on his entry “180 isn’t a magic number.” Essentially, he found that athletes generally adjust both stride length and rate to either maintain or increase their speed.
The above image comes from Pete Larson – it charts cadence & speed compared to actual steps taken per 100m. Larson wrote about his personal findings concerning the correlation between stride length, cadence, and speed. His was a unique circumstance in that he not only increased his speed by upping his stride rate, but he also extended his stride length by 42% when he picked up his pace. Now it’s important to note that increasing stride length by that much isn’t something that most runners can do without compromising form or risking injury.
Strides help runners structure their speed training, but it also places some emphasis on improving form. Good form can improve your overall running economy. Some quick notes on doing strides:
- strides are often short between 50m-100m
- they’re not full-on sprints, but are “comfortably fast” runs that retain good form
- you can do strides as warm-up, cool-down, or as intervals
- not sure what a stride looks like? here’s a helpful video on Track & Field Strides – same idea