A simple way to improve your speed is to add several strides to the end of easy runs.

Strides are those 60 -- 100 meter "pickups" that runners do typically just before speedwork or races. In these instances, they generally warmup well, stretch and use strides as a finishing touch to ease into fast-running mode. The reasons for doing strides before a bout of fast running are many: muscles need to be flooded with blood, fast-twitch muscle fibers need to be recruited and race pace must be briefly simulated to get the body and mind to run fast.

But why do strides at the end of an easy run ? One answer can be found at the finish line of any race: people like to run fast at the end of races. Easy day strides will improve that finishing kick.

Strides also improve your neuromuscular coordination since the bursts of speed stimulate neural pathways. Your coordination and form become more fluid from these short but frequent doses of speed tacked onto the ends of easy runs. Result: you become faster. 

Strides are also a great, non-threatening way to begin speedwork if you have never done it before, or if you are coming back from time off.  Consider these points when you start running strides:

1. Finish your easy run at straight stretch of road, track or smooth dirt trail.
2. When you start in, gradually accelerate to about 85 percent of your maximum speed for the first third of the stride, hold that pace for another third and then gradually decelerate over the final third.
3. Easy day strides should not be timed and the exact distance is not critical. About 60 to 100 meters is fine. 
4. A quick turnover is important for speed. Think "quick arms" and your legs will follow.
6. After each stride, walk around and shake out your legs for about 90 seconds.
7. Then stride back in the opposite direction.
8. Don't run too many strides at such a fast pace that your easy run becomes a another hard day.

Easy day strides won't help you qualify for the Olympics -- but over time, they will make you faster !!

Author: Karen Craney 
Training Program Coordinator
RRCA Certified Coach
Fleet Feet Sports Certified Coach
Fleet Feet Sports, Gaithersburg, MD

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