If you want to run faster, you have to increase either stride length or stride turnover (cadence)… or both.
What is stride length?
Stride length is the distance you cover from where one foot is on the ground until the same foot hits the ground again.
The length of your stride depends on your height, your fitness level and your body’s individual biomechanics. Stride length in elite runners often also varies depending on the distance of the race being run.
Why is it important?
Stride length is directly related to cadence and if your cadence is low (optimal is 180-200), your stride length might be too long or not long enough. Stride length that is too long (over-striding) will result in you getting tired much quicker (using extra energy) and putting unnecessary strain on joints and muscles.
How can you lengthen your stride
Remember that consistency is critical to see results.
- Increase flexibility – doing dynamic stretches before training is one way to become more flexible. Yoga and pilates are also brilliant.
- Improve running form and efficiency – consistently including technique work over time helps with this.
- Strength training – strong bodies make for strong runners.
- Plyometrics – jump training is a great way to increase stride length if you have time to include this in your program. I include it often as my strength work.
- Drills – hill hops uphill (yes!), barefoot grass running, power hill sprints and hilly fartleks are excellent drills to increase stride length.
- Miracle Miles – test your speed, cadence and stride length progress by doing a mile time trial once a month for 3-12 months to gauge how you’re doing.
How can you measure it?
Remember that every runner is different.
- Tech – your watch can tell you.
- Run along soft ground, or anywhere you will leave some kind of a footprint, then measure the distance either between each heel-strike, or toe-to-toe, depending on your running style.
- Run a known distance, for example 100 metres, and count the number of steps you take. Divide the distance by the number of steps to give your metres per stride.
- Take a video of yourself running and analyse it alongside the attached running form comparison.
Christine is a running coach and nutrition specialist based with Sole Buddies #LiveLife in Cape Town. She is also the co-anchor for the GerhardandChristineLiveLife podcast, and co-founder of For The Long Run, a social upliftment project and registered NPO in Fisantekraal. Read more about Sole Buddies here.