Stride length

As can be guessed from my alter ego and "Face It" image. I'm really a cyclist. I've been convinced to do a tri by a mate. I've been along to some swimming lessons at which a lot of emphasis has been put on lengthening my stroke.

Is the same approach true in running? I.e. should I be increasing my stride length?

As a cyclist I have tight hamstrings so my stride is naturally short. What are the safest ways of increasing stride length and will it give me efficiency improvement?


  • Bikeboy, most articles on running form emphasise leg speed (cadence) over stride length. As you have recognised, trying too hard to lengthen your stride may cause injury. My personal feeling is that as one's running fitness improves one's stride will lengthen as appropriate. I think that the best thing to do would be to work on your hamstrings by doing stretches after training sessions. It is received wisdom these days that stretches should be maintained for at least thirty seconds to do any good at all. There are plenty of good articles on stretches for runners. I'm learning to swim properly now (my son is a national level age group swimmer)and I can understand the temptation to draw parallels between the training requirements, but swimming depends on technique in a way which running does not. I regularly get overtaken in both road and off road races by people with horrible running form, but I have never seen my son beaten by a swimmer with a poor stroke technique.
  • Don't know about the swimming, but by and large I'd agree with you Wurzel wrt legspeed. Although I have to say that in race situations (right at the finish) and when really caning it (last half of last night's final flat out 400 springs to mind) I find my stride length increasing (rather than legspeed) in an attempt to find more speed. Maybe that's just me.

    Not so sure about the stretching though. When my son was prescribed stretching exercises (hamstrings downwards) last year to deal with his Achilles tendinitis, he was told to do multiple repetitions and hold them for a short time. That came from a very competent NHS physio.
  • Stride length will come naturally in running, in swimming,trust me I'm a coach,long strokes in FC are most efficient and streamlined.
  • Thanks all for the advice. I wonder if short spells of longer strides would help my hamstring flexibility (kind of stride intervals). The only worry with this is that it's more of a balistic stretch rather than a controlled one.

    I always try and stretch calves and hams after running anyway as I seem to use these bits differently in running and cycling.

  • BB

    One other point, the stride length should be dictated by the back leg, i.e. the power of the 'toe off'. You should not look to increase stride by reaching out and overstriding with the front leg, this should always be landing underneath your body otherwise you run the risk of injury, particularly to the knee.
  • Oooh don't want a knee injury! Think I'll definately go for gaining stride length naturally. I'm reasonably good at making my foot strike under my body (my brother is an ironman triathlete and gave me this tip among many others).

    It sounds like a similar thing to cycling cadence increase, i.e. something that naturally changes over time.
  • Can't comment on the stride length question Bike boy. My husband's a cyclist and can disappear for a 80-100 mile bike ride for the day; when he trained for the GNR (talked into it by me!) he pulled his calf muscles twice on easy runs. Our theory was that calf muscles get very tight from cycling and the more cycling fit you are, the more you need to watch out when running.
    He 'couldn't be arsed' to do any poncy stretching (from the old school of just getting on and doing it!), and, annoyingly, still got around in 2.12.
    But I did think stretching might have helped prevent the calf probs.
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