Off-season run technique session: work on your stride rate

The off-season is the perfect time to work on your stride rate, says run coach Scott Findlay

Credit: Remy Whiting

I hear what you’re saying. ‘Cadence work? But we did that last year!’  That’s right, but personally I’ll be doing it for years and years to come. Working on your stride rate to make sure you’re running in the optimal range (175-185 strides per minute) is a great way to improve your performance.

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What you’ll tend to find, when you change your running style, is that it will temporarily get harder. This is because you’re making your body run in a way it’s not used to. But this is the perfect time of year to be making a change. By the time the season comes around, you’ll be familiar with this more efficient cadence.

During the set, when trying to increase your cadence, just add 2-3 strides per minute. As you complete this run and others like it, you should be getting closer to that ideal cadence range. But don’t overthink it and don’t rush it. It will take time – which is why we’re starting this far out from race season.

3 top tips for the session

Watch your step

One of the benefits of having a cadence in this optimal range is that it allows you to quickly adapt to changing
terrain and racing conditions.

Happy landing 

It’s important that you speed up your cadence through good technique. Try to make sure your feet land underneath your body rather than focusing on forefoot or heel striking.

Check your speed

Try to control your pace during this session. When running at a set effort level, don’t allow your pace to increase as you increase your cadence!

Stride rate session

Warm-up:

  • 10mins building from easy to moderate
  • Become more aware of your natural cadence as you increase effort

Main set: 

  • 5mins easy, natural cadence
  • 5mins easy, slightly faster cadence
  • 10mins moderate, natural cadence
  • 10mins moderate, slightly faster cadence
  • 2:30mins vigorous, natural cadence
  • 2:30mins vigorous, slightly faster cadence

Cool-down: 

  • 5mins easy. Try to replicate your slightly faster cadence from the main set

Adapt for beginners: Feel free to reduce the time by halving each rep in the main set. This will give a much shorter run and also less time at those unusual, higher cadences.

Adapt for Ironman: Add in more volume by doubling each rep in the main set. If you still want more, add in a 30min moderate run at the end where you try to maintain a steady cadence.

Run technique booster session

Coach: Paul Jones, F4L Triathlon Coaching

Benefit: This is a great session to improve run technique, which should cut the chances of injury and make you a more efficient runner.

Warm-up: 

  • Do some activations, including dynamic hamstrings, dynamic calf raises and ankle mobility. Then move into a 10min easy jog. As you run, be conscious of your position, where your foot hits the ground, and are you nice and tall? Then do a short series of drills that help set up your posture…
  • Tick tock: run on the spot, nice and tall. Allow alternate feet to swing sideways and land beneath your hip. After 10secs on the spot, move forward 6m (still swinging legs sideways, waddling if you like) and then break into a jog for another few metres. Turn around and repeat six times.
  • High knees: this is often done with rubbish posture and bending like a crunch, so stay tall, bring each knee up parallel with the ground and move the opposite arm to keep balance in your posture. Perform 10 on each leg, turn around and repeat four times.
  • Fast feet: using light, quick steps, think about 150rpm on a bike. Move your arms to engage the whole body, stay tall and don’t move forward quickly!

Main set:

  • Strides: usually on grass, trail or a track, this helps to awaken your body and engage the body. Maintain excellent posture throughout. Do not go over 8.5/10 rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and increase pace gradually. These are not sprints.
  • 5x 2min efforts with 1min recovery. These ‘efforts’ are about form and posture, not fitness. Start each effort with the tick-tock drill for about 10secs (stationary) and then move forward as above into a run, building the pace quickly to 8.5/10 RPE.

Cool-down: 

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  • 5mins easy jogging, maintaining good posture and form, followed by 5min walking to avoid blood pooling.