Strides and/or Pickups

Strides (also known as pickups) consist of short bursts of swift running. Strides are an easy to perform running drill to improve your form and mechanics. The main goal is to increase your stride length while maintaining a quick foot turnover. It is simply going from running easy to increasing your speed by lengthening your stride for about 20 to 30 seconds and then slowing your speed down. Allow time for active/running recovery before your next pickup.


How to Do Strides:

  1. Complete your scheduled miles on your training calendar at an easy pace. Strides are best completed after your run, not during.
  2. After your run, you should stretch lightly or walk it out for a few minutes to bring your heart rate and breathing down before you start the strides. If strides are new for you, start with a total of four and gradually build up to six or eight over time.
  3. Begin your stride by easing into a fast pace over the first 5 seconds. It is important to ease into the pace to prevent injury.
  4. After 5 seconds, you should have reached full speed. Begin to focus on staying relaxed and letting your body do the work. Keep a relaxed face, make sure your arms aren’t flailing, and work on landing on your midfoot (closer to your toes), not your heel. It should feel like a controlled fast pace rather than a sprint. Continue to stay relaxed at your top end speed and gradually, over the last 5 seconds slow yourself to a stop.
  5. Take a full recovery between each stride, which should be about 2 minutes. You can stop to catch your breath, walk or slowly jog in place on the way back to the starting point. The purpose of strides is not to get in a hard workout or to have you breathing hard. Strides are designed to work on speed and mechanics, so starting your next stride winded or before you are fully recovered will not be beneficial to the training adaptations.

What are the benefits of strides?

1. Strides help you work on your mechanics in short increments. It’s easy to focus on form when you’re only running for 20 to 30 seconds and you’re not overly tired. Not only does it help you create mental cues to stay on your toes and feel relaxed, but it makes the process more natural for the body during the race.

2. As distance runners, most of our time is spent running at slower speeds to build our aerobic systems. Strides offer you a great way to add some speed work into your training plan without having to sacrifice a whole day of training.  

3. Strides are a great introduction to faster, more rigorous training. Beginning distance runners may not be used to going fast or doing speed work, and strides are a gentle introduction for the body and will help you get used to the feeling of running faster.

4. Strides can serve as a great way to stretch out the legs after an easy session. During marathon and half marathon training, the legs can get stale with the mileage. Strides help break up the monotony and add a little spice to the training and your legs. A few stride sessions will help get your marathon weary legs feeling fresh again.