Have you ever thought about how many strides you take per minute while running? For most of us this is probably the last thing we’re thinking about – running can be difficult enough without having to count steps at the same time!
Over the last 30-40 years several theories have evolved around whether we should take longer or shorter strides to make us faster runners. In the 1970’s the trend was for distance runners to take long strides – runners and their coaches believed this was the quickest route to faster times and improved performances.
In the mid-1980’s legendary distance running coach, Jack Daniels, found through analysis of several runners and their running stride that most elite runners ran at around 180 strides per minute regardless of the speed they were running at.
Running speed is a function of two very simple things: the length of your running stride and the frequency at which you take those strides. To go faster, either one or the other has to increase. Top level distance runners typically run at a high number of steps per minute – between 180-200 no matter what speed they’re going; simply varying the length of their stride to run faster or slower.
Here, we’re going to take a look at some of the benefits of running with a higher stride frequency and give you some tips to increase your stride on your own or with running buddies! Remember that 180 strides per minute is just a suggested benchmark – most important is that you find a stride frequency that works best for YOU!
MORE STEPS, FEWER INJURIES!
Most casual runners run at a slower rate with longer strides (around 160-170 per minute) causing them to use more energy and break each time their foot strikes the ground. A higher stride rate forces smaller strides, which brings a runner’s feet more directly under them instead of out in front, decreases the injuries associated with over-striding, and increases efficiency.
With a higher stride frequency you’re landing more in the middle of your foot rather than your heel. This encourages greater engagement of the hamstring and glute muscles as the foot prepares to strike and lift off.
The reason a higher stride rate can reduce injury is because it decreases the amount of time the foot hangs in the air and changes the angle at which it lands. The longer the foot is in the air the harder it hits the ground. It’s known that every time we strike the ground while running the force is equivalent to 3-4 times our body weight – that’s a lot of built up force over a 5KM training run let alone a marathon!
MORE STEPS, BETTER EFFICIENCY!
The second reason a higher stride rate can be ideal is related to the foot lift-off – the lift helps to propel us forward when running! Spending too much time in the air decreases the amount of force pushing you forward. Spending too much time on the ground with each step means you’re, well, stuck on the ground and not running forward. A high turnover pushes a runner forward quickly and strongly. You should want to create the feeling of rolling over the ground, just like a bike, reducing any excess up and down motion.
IMPROVING YOUR STRIDE RATE!
How do you increase your turnover? Practice. Each time you run, set aside two to three minutes to test out your stride frequency. Test your strike rate once at the beginning of your run, then again mid-run, and once more towards the end of your run. It is very common for runners to lose their good running form as they become fatigued.
We advise checking regularly to avoid running sloppy and increasing risk of injury. Also, be sure that you are landing on your mid-foot and that you are striking the ground right below your hips. If your foot is landing out in front of you, you are over-striding, and likely heel striking, both major causes of injury for runners.
THE STRIDE TEST: To find out how many strides you take per minute we suggest the Stride Test! Time yourself for 30 seconds and count how many strides you take. Take that number and times by 2 to find out how many strides you take in any minute. Suggest doing this 2-3 times at the beginning, middle and end of your run for the most realistic result. Do this minimum once per month to see if you’re getting closer to the magical 180 strides per minute!
180 SONGS: Listening to music with 180 beats per minute can help you to get into the rhythm of running with a higher stride frequency. Try to strike the ground on each beat – get started with this Spotify Playlist.
METRONOME: Download a simple Metronome app to experiment running at different strides per minute. Adjust the number of beats to find which suits you best – it might 178 or 184? Experiment to find out!
FILM: Ask a friend to film you running at a medium pace from a side on perspective so that you can see how long your stride length is and which part of the foot strikes first. If you have access to a high-speed camera so that you can replay in slow motion that’s even better!
BAREFOOT: Running barefoot naturally encourages you to land on your mid-foot and increase your stride frequency. Sometimes the running shoes we wear have lots of cushioning in the heel making it possible for us to take long strides and land on the heel!
RUNNING ANALYSIS: Our Injury Prevention and Physiotherapy partner, Star Physio, is offering CTS participants 20% off Running Analysis. The team at Star Physio are experts in this field and can help runners of all levels, from first timers to the professional athlete, looking to hit peak performance levels – learn more.
Train with us!
Of course training with a group is always more fun so why not join in our complimentary Community Run Club sessions?
We’ve also partnered with two community running groups in the lead up to this year’s Chevron City to Surf for Activ – Perth Urban Runners and Perth Run Collective. Check out our blogs on these groups for how to get involved!