Two running workouts that are often confused and that almost any runner can benefit from. Today we are going to be breaking down the difference between running strides vs sprints. Below we’ll go over the benefits of each, the difference between the two, and how you should be using each based on your overall goals. So if you’re ready to become a more knowledgeable and complete runner, let’s get to it!
The Difference Between Running Strides vs Sprints
The Short Answer: Strides are short, fast runs emphasizing running form by working drive (leg and knee), turnover, and food strike. While sprints are short, all out bursts of energy that are meant to build strength, explosiveness, threshold, and improve recovery.
Now let’s break down the difference between strides vs sprints in more detail.
The Benefits of Running Strides
The overall goal of running strides is to improve your running form. But as a bi-product, strides offer the benefit of improving performance in multiple ways. Including;
- Improved Stride Length and Knee Drive – Running strides promotes really elongating your stride. Emphasizing full extension from the upward knee drive to back leg kick. Repeating this range of motion will help improve these aspects during your normal runs.
- Faster Turnover – By focusing on proper kick and knee drive, you are going to naturally encourage a fast turnover in the process. Again, by building this into muscle memory you are going to use this improved (and more efficient) form during your day to day run.
- Improved Foot Strike – As your stride lengthens and turnover speeds up. Your body will typically need to speed up your foot strike to match the turnover. To do this, you will naturally start to drive into the ground. Building tension and explosive force for the rebound. Creating a dynamic and hard foot strike.
- Improved Arm Efficiency – Putting all of these pieces together with your legs is great. But the final piece to the form puzzle is your arm swing. Running strides will make you drive your arms forward to create drive. Building efficiency in the movement with reputation.
- Increased Leg & Core Strength – As you can imagine, by working on improving your dynamic range of motion. You will gain strength throughout that range of motion. So while the primary goal of running strides isn’t to get stronger, it typically happens when they are done consistently.
- Improved Speed – Simply put, if you improve your running form while increasing strength, and range of motion. When done consistently, you will most likely end up getting fast.
How to Incorporate Strides Into Your Workouts.
Strides are usually incorporated at the end of a longer running workout. By running 4-8 sets of strides, with a short period of rest or walking in between. Remember to focus on form and feel, rather than speed and trying to make it feel hard.
You can read a complete beginners guide to running strides here.
The Benefits of Running Sprints
There is no way around it, running sprints is meant to be hard. Really hard. And when done correctly can be one of the most beneficial workouts for any short to mid distance runner. Benefits include;
- Building Leg Muscle strength – Sprinting places an increased amount of load on your legs through both the force used to propel yourself forward. And the force / strength needed to control your body’s weight through the landing and turnover of your feet, due to the increased force placed on your legs because of the speed. This will force muscle adaptations making the muscles throughout your legs stronger.
- You will get faster – One of the benefits of stronger legs is increased running speed. Pushing your body at top end sprint speed will also make slower speed feel easier by comparison
- Improved Recovery – By pushing your heart rate close to a max temp for a short period, then allowing it to come back down to a fully recovered state. Over time your body will start adapting to this and get to a lower heart rate quicker and quicker. This is one reason rest time plays a large part in your sprint programming.
- Improved Lactic Threshold – Your lactic threshold is the point where your body is producing lactate faster than it can be removed from the blood. Once this lactate or lactic acid builds up, it typically leads to reduced performance. Sprinting is one of the fastest ways to push yourself to your lactic threshold. And by gradually increasing the length or number of sprints over time. Your body can adapt and increase its ability to remove lactate from the blood.
How to Incorporate Sprints Into Your Workouts
When done correctly a sprint workout should be your hardest workout of the week. It’s also one of the hardest on the body, while requiring more recovery than a typical run. Because of this it’s recommended to do sprint workouts 1-2 times a week at most. While planning a recovery run or day off for the following day.
Here is a link to a 20 week HIIT program. One of the most effective forms of sprint training.
Conclusion – Running Strides vs Sprints
If you want to get faster, then these are two workouts you should be integrating into your programming. The key is to understand the differences between running strides and sprints. Just remember, while strides are meant to be fast they should almost feel easy. Focusing on running with your ideal running form. And are best used as a finisher to another workout. While sprints are meant to be incredibly hard. Maxing out the muscles and cardiovascular systems all at once. And are best used as their own workout, followed by a recovery.