Improving Your Stride Length Workout To Run Faster
In this section, I want to show you how to improve your stride length workout to run faster.
What is “stride length“?
Stride length is the distance that you cover each time you take a step.
Your stride length will vary depending upon how long your legs are.
Naturally, if you are a tall person, you will naturally have a longer stride length simply because you have longer legs.
Likewise, if you are a shorter person, you will naturally have a shorter stride length because your legs are shorter.
It does not matter how long or short your legs are when it comes to the science of speed training so there is no need to limit your potential by asking, “How can I run faster with short legs?” or “How can you run faster if you are not a very tall person?”.
Everyone is capable of improving the length of their running stride regardless of the length of their legs.
Also, it doesn’t matter if you are looking for ways to run faster in short bursts (such as in football) or ways to run a faster 5k, you still need to work on increasing your stride lengths.
There are many effective and proven stride length workout to run faster, but in this section, I just want to focus on the ways to run faster that you can:
- Perform without having to buy any special equipment. (Parachutes, flexbands, sleds, etc.)
- Perform without the aid of a spotter or training partner.
- Perform without having to buy a gym membership or enroll in a specialized training facility.
Let’s take a closer detailed look at how can you run faster by increasing your stride length and why it works.
How Can You Run Faster
By Increasing Your Stride Length?
Before I go into detail about each stride length workout to run faster, let’s first take a look at “why” increasing your stride length is necessary and then afterwards, I will show you scientifically “how” and “why” doing the speed training exercises I share with you will help increase your running stride.
First, let’s take a look at “WHY” increasing the length of your stride can help you run faster…
Imagine that you are in a 100 meter race and let’s take a look at the simple math of how you can run faster by improving your stride length.
Let’s just assume that you are a speed demon and capable of completing 100 steps or 100 strides in 10 seconds. (Which is very fast in real life.)
This means that each “step” or “stride” you take will cover 1 meter, so in order for you to win the race, you must take 100 steps or 100 strides to complete the race.
If you take 100 steps and divide it by 10 seconds you will come up with 10 strides/second.
If you work to increase the length of your stride from “1 meter/step” to “1.10 meter/step” and run the exact same race again, you will be able to complete the race in 9.09 seconds!
This is a huge difference in speed!
I calculated the difference in speed by taking 10 seconds and dividing it by 1.10 meter/step which equals 9.09 seconds.
This is based on the fact that you are still able to take one step or one stride per second.
So basically, you are taking 9.09 seconds to run a distance of 100 meters instead of doing it in 10 seconds!
This is a huge improvement in speed.
Now that you understand “why” increasing your stride length can help you run faster…
Let’s now take a look at exactly “how” your stride length improves as you are doing the stride length exercises to increase your speed.
How Can I Run Faster
By Doing Stride Length Exercises?
If you ask different speed coaches, “How can I run faster by doing stride length exercises?” you will get a lot of conflicting answers especially if your speed coach does not clearly understand the science of running faster.
Everyone is born with a natural and specific stride length that they use when running.
In order for you to increase your stride length, you have to do some type of “overload” or “overspeed” training where your body is forced to widen it’s normal and natural stride length.
This “overload” training principle is similar to what is used to build muscle or increase the flexibility of your joints.
When you hear trainers talk about overloading your stride length, all it means is “over extending” the length of your running stride.
When you overload your running stride, you are consciously and purposely training your body to “hyper extend” or “over extend” your stride.
In the beginning, when you first train to “over extend” your running stride, it will feel very weird, uncomfortable and very off balanced.
However, after continual practice to over extend your running stride, your body will slowly adapt and you will begin to “naturally” run with a longer stride.
There are basically 2 ways to increase your stride length:
- Run upwards on some type of an inclined surface, or
- Run with some type of resistance behind you. (i.e., parachutes, flexbands, sleds, etc.)
Running upwards on some type of “inclined surface” is one common type of speed training methodology which forces your body to hyper extend the reach of your legs, thereby forcing you to practice running with a longer stride.
I prefer to show you this type of workout to run faster because it does not require any special speed training equipment and you can do it almost anywhere.
The second way of increasing your stride length is to do your speed training on a level surface with the addition of some type of “resistance” added to your body such as a parachute, flexbands, weighted running sleds, etc.
The addition of the extra weight or resistance that is added in front of you or behind you will force you to push harder with your legs thereby “hyper extending” the reach of your stride.
It does not matter which method you choose to use, they are both very effective means of increasing the length of your running stride.
Hopefully, I was able to help answer your question of, “How can I run faster by doing stride length exercises?”
Now let’s take a close look at some of the ways to run faster on an inclined surface so that it can help to increase the length of your running stride.
A Powerful Stride Length Workout To Run Faster
As I mentioned earlier, running on some type of “inclined” surface is one of the most powerful stride length workout to run faster that is available.
In this section, I will focus mainly on the first type of training in which uses various types of “inclined” surfaces to increase your stride length because:
- It is easy to find an inclined surface to workout to run faster.
- You don’t need to buy any specialized equipment. (Parachutes, flexbands, sleds, etc.)
- It is safer.
- It is hassle free because you don’t have to worry about setting up any equipment. (Parachutes, flexbands, sleds, etc.)
- Lastly, you can safely learn, practice, and workout to run faster on your own without the aid of a badass personal trainer or speed coach like myself.
Once you have applied the “inclined” surface training drills then you can move to more advanced level stride lengthening exercises using specialized speed training equipment.
Now that I have explained how can you run faster by improving your stride length in “theory”, let’s now take a look at the “application” of the various ways to run faster by training your legs to increase your stride length.
Ways To Run Faster Using An Inclined Surface
To Increase Your Stride Length
I will go over each stride length workout and ways to run faster on an inclined surface in detail.
Although there are many different speed training techniques and strategies to help increase the length of your running stride, I purposely chose the following exercises because you can go out and practice them immediately and get results.
I don’t want you to have to hire a trainer or buy specialized speed training equipment.
The biggest challenge you will face when training to increase your stride length is to find a quality inclined running surface.
Here are the characteristics of a quality inclined running surface:
- It needs to have a smooth and even running surface with no pot holes, jagged surfaces, or loose stones.
- It needs to have a smooth and steady rate of incline.
- It needs to have a lot of open field, length and distance to allow you to run at least 50-100 meters (yards) without any physical obstructions.
- It needs to be free of distraction.
- It needs to have good traction.
After extensive research into inclined running surfaces, I have found the following inclines to be of high quality and very safe for speed training drills to increase the length of your stride.
The inclined surfaces are listed in random order and neither one is better or more important than the other. Choose the one that best fits your situation.
1. Parking Garage Ramps – In my opinion, these are the BEST inclined surfaces to run on because they have a very even running surface that provides lots of traction. The angle of incline is also very steady, consistent and reliable which allows you do a lot of blind folded speed drills without fear of tripping over yourself or twisting your ankle or knee.
If you live near a metropolitan area, you should be able to find a very good parking garage that is not busy on the weekends to use for your speed training drills.
Even on a busy day, you can still find some empty parking spaces on the very top floors. During the hot summers, the parking garage ramps also provide plenty of shade for your training so you can remain cool and not easily become exhausted.
I also like the fact that most parking garages in the U.S. have standardized 8 1/2 feet wide parking spaces (7 1/2 feet wide for compact parking spaces) which allows you to easily “mark off” the distances you have to run for your speed training drills. You can easily mark off your running distances by placing small orange cones on the paint lines or you can simply use several towels, t-shirts, or gym bags to mark off your running distances.
Some disadvantages of parking garages are that they may be private and there may be security guards that will not allow you to use their ramps for speed training. You can easily overcome this by befriending the security guard by bringing him some coffee, snacks, sodas, etc. You will be surprised how easily you can win someone over with a cup of coffee and a candy bar.
Another disadvantage of using a parking garage is that some parking garages are too short and there may not be enough distance for you to do certain long distance speed drills.
Despite the minor disadvantages of parking garages, I still think they are one of the best inclined training grounds for increasing your stride length.
2. Freeway Entrance/Exit Ramps – A freeway ramp is another excellent inclined surface that you can use for your stride length training. It provides a very even running surface that provides lots of traction and plenty of running room to do your longer distance speed drills.
The angle of incline is also very steady, consistent and reliable which allows you do a lot of blind folded speed drills without fear of tripping over yourself or twisting your ankle or knee.
The biggest disadvantage of using a freeway entrance or exit ramp is the safety issue with moving cars and busy traffic, however, if you find a freeway ramp that has little traffic and use it on a Saturday or Sunday, you will find that it is relatively safe and has very little traffic.
3. Hills – Hills are awesome inclined surfaces to run on for your stride length exercises. The disadvantages of running on a hill is that the slope of the hill is NOT always consistent and DOES NOT have a gradual incline.
Often times the hill is either too steep or too shallow for training. Even if you find a decent hill with a good slope, the surface may not always be smooth and even for your speed drills.
The risk of twisting an ankle or knee is higher on a hill because of the uneven and unpredictable surface. Plus, the dirt in the hill may not always have the same texture and hardness depending upon the weather and humidity conditions.
Nevertheless, a hill is still a good incline training surface if you do not live near a parking garage or freeway entrance ramp.
4. Inclined Treadmills – Treadmills are also a really great inclined training surface. I actually like using them in the early stages of stride length training because it allows you to really “feel” the difference between a short stride and long stride.
You also have the ability to fine tune and adjust the angle of the incline and the speed of the treadmill to match your skill level and running experience. This is a very useful feature because you can easily track and monitor your running progress in “time” and “angle of incline” with a high degree of accuracy.
On some treadmills you can monitor your heart rate which allows you to keep an eye on the progress of your conditioning and endurance as well.
Another advantage of using the treadmill is that you can do it indoors and not be affected by unfavorable weather conditions.
The disadvantages of using a treadmill is the “cost” of using one. Either you have to join a gym to have access to one or buy your own at home.
Obviously if you are in school or on an athletic team you can use the treadmills at your school or athletic training facility but for most people you either have to buy one or join a gym in order to use one.
The other disadvantage of using a treadmill is that it may not be fast enough to accommodate your running skill level or your speed level.
When I was working as the Lead Personal Trainer at Gold’s Gym, we had “commercial” grade treadmills that were set to max out at 12 miles per hour (mph) because the gym did not want anyone to run any faster and risk falling off and getting injured and sue the gym.
Due to the liability concerns of most public gyms, you may not be able to find a heavy duty “commercial” grade treadmill to use for your training.
However, in the beginning stages of your speed training, a treadmill that can operate at 12 mph is still more than adequate for your stride length training and you can still get a lot of benefit from it.
Even when you have outgrown the 12 mph limit on the treadmill, you can still use it for “blind folded” stride length training so don’t eliminate the treadmill altogether just because it can not accommodate your running speed.
Lastly, some people don’t like doing speed training on a treadmill because it doesn’t feel “real” and “natural”.
The fact that you are running in once place can throw some people off and they prefer to run on “solid ground” instead. There is no right or wrong to this, it’s just a matter of preference.
Unsafe Ways To Run Faster Using
An Inclined Surface To Increase Your Stride Length
In addition to the inclined surfaces I mentioned above, there are also some very popular but UNSAFE ways to run faster using an inclined surface that I DO NOT recommend because they are not safe and the risk of injury is very high.
Unfortunately, the type of inclined workout to run faster that I’m about to share with you below are extremely popular and used by many trainers and coaches but I tend to stay away from them simply because of safety issues.
I recommend you avoid the following stride length workouts to run faster due to safety and risk concerns:
1. Stadium Steps – Running drills on stadium steps are extremely popular and practiced at almost every school and athletic facility.
I am not a big proponent of doing any kind of stride length workouts to run faster on stadium steps because the risk of missing a step, tripping, falling, twisting your ankle or knee, and busting your ass are extremely high.
A lot of you reading this may disagree with me on this but this is one of those running philosophies that I just don’t subscribe to and some of you may even argue that if it’s so dangerous, then why is everyone doing it?
I have a personal training policy that if something is unsafe or risky, I try to avoid it especially when there are other exercises available that can help you accomplish the same results without any risk of injury.
The risk of injury running on stadium steps comes from the fact that you can not run without constantly watching or paying attention to your step so you don’t trip and fall.
If you think about it for a moment, it’s not “natural” for you to run and “watch your step” at the same time!
In a real game of football, soccer, etc. you do not have time or get a chance to “watch your step” as you run.
If your mind is focused on your running step during a game, you will not be able to pay attention to your surrounding and move with speed and agility.
Therefore, you are training yourself to run unnaturally and learn a skill that does not apply very well in the “real world”.
This is the main reason I try to avoid running on stadium steps.
The only big advantage I see with running on stadium steps is that it is easily accessible to almost everyone who plays a sport for their school or lives near a school with a sports team.
Other than this, I really don’t see any other advantage to running on stadium steps.
2. Stairs – I feel the same way about running on stairs as I do about running on stadium steps.
It is not a natural way of running because no one runs and watches their step at the same time in real life.
Again, the only advantage I see with using stairs in your stride length training is that it is ease of access and availability.
Almost everyone lives near a commercial or residential building that has more than one flight of stairs that you can use for training.
Another disadvantage of using stairs is that most of them don’t have enough steps for your stride length training. As soon as you get the “feel” of extending your stride, there are no more stair steps left in the staircase to run any further or faster.
This is why I don’t like using staircases.
Is Stride Length Training Necessary
To Run A Faster 5K Or Just To Run A Faster Sprint?
Increasing your stride length is important whether you are trying to run a faster 5k, a faster mile, or run a faster 40 yard dash.
Some folks think that training to increase your stride length is for short distance runners only.
This is NOT true.
No matter what distance you need to run or what type of sport you play, you can always benefit from being able to run with a longer stride.
If you think that stride length workouts are not necessary, just imagine how sooner you would finish running a 5k or 10k marathon if each step you took was 2-4 inches longer?
If you combine the increase in stride length on top of the other components of speed that I have discussed with you in this speed training blog, you have no choice but to improve your running speed.
Now that you understand the importance of having a stride workout to run faster, let’s take a look at other ways to run faster.
The next component of speed training that I want to share with you deals with your running stride.
- Go back to the previous section on “Powerful Leg Workouts To Run Faster“
- Go to the next section and learn the “Stride Frequency Exercises To Run Faster“