When introducing speed work into a training program, it’s important to do so safely. Running faster will force you to break out of your comfort zone and start recruiting your previously unused fast-twitch muscle fibers. Doing too much, too soon, however, will result in injury, so it’s important to sprinkle in speed work in small doses.
Strides are an easy and effective way to gently fire up those fast-twitch muscle fibers that will power your future speed workouts. So, how do you do them?
After one or two of your regular old runs during the week, find a flat stretch of road and accelerate for 15-20 seconds. Once you approach top speed, gradually decelerate back down to a jog. Repeat four to six times and take a minute or so between repeats to catch your breath and get ready to go again. Remember, these aren’t all-out sprints but short accelerations. Focus on running relaxed with fluid form: get up on your toes and lift your knees a little more than you ordinarily would while covering ground quickly and comfortably.
In the beginning, a set of four to six strides two to three times a week after your regular runs is plenty. As your training progresses, strides will become something of a speed maintenance session, as well as serve as part of a warm-up routine for some of the more advanced speed workouts described in the following pages.