March 16, 2021

What Are Accelerations? (And How They Help You Run Faster)

Commonly called strides, pickups or striders, accelerations are a fantastic warm-up exercise and form of speedwork early in a training cycle.

Related Articles

3 Types Of Hill Runs (And, Where To Run Hills In Singapore)

How To Enjoy Your Running (And Any Other Exercise)

I don’t know how many accelerations I have done in my lifetime, but it’s a lot. 

Commonly called strides, pickups or striders, accelerations are one of my favourite warm-up exercises because they help the transition between an easy warm-up jog and a high-intensity set.

Accelerations also provide a great form of speedwork early in a training cycle when you don’t want to push too hard.

In this article, I’ll explain how to do accelerations and what the benefits are.

What Are Accelerations?

Accelerations are 20 to 30-second efforts building from an easy jog to a relaxed hard effort. They’re followed by a full recovery and are typically run at the end of easier runs or before an intense session or race.

How To Do Accelerations

  • Complete your scheduled session as per your training plan. Accelerations are done at the end of the run or warm-up jog, not during.
  • Begin your accelerations. It’s important not to blast out of the gate to avoid injury, so begin your acceleration at an easy effort and gradually build your pace over the first half.
  • By the halfway point, you should have reached a relaxed hard effort. You should feel comfortable and not be at max or straining.
  • Once at full speed, relax and focus on running with relaxed breathing. Run tall and rollover your hips, letting your body do the work.
  • Aim to land midfoot, not on your heel. Keep your face, shoulders and hands relaxed. Continue to stay comfortable at full speed before gradually easing off towards the end.
  • Take a full recovery between accelerations to bring your heart rate down before you start the next one. The purpose of accelerations is to help your leg-speed and mechanics, not to train hard or have you breathing heavily.
Cut Race Times, Not Corners.

Racing at your potential and enjoying training is easy when you’re following the right programme.

Where To Run Accelerations

One of the great things about accelerations is that you can run them anywhere. I’ve run them on roads, footpaths, beaches, bush tracks, parks, running tracks and probably a number of other places.

Before speed sessions, I’d often do them barefoot on the grass inside the track to help develop foot and lower leg strength. 

The Benefits Of Accelerations

Accelerations have several benefits, and we use them in different ways in our training plans, depending on what we’re trying to accomplish with the session.

  • As distance athletes, we spend the majority of our training time focussing on developing our aerobic function. Accelerations offer a great way to inject some speed work into your training without sacrificing a full training session and negatively impacting recovery.
  • Accelerations are a great precursor to faster training because they get the blood flowing and elevate the heart rate without placing too much overall stress on the body.
  • Accelerations help to improve your mechanics and comfort running at high speed. It’s easy to focus on your technique when you’re only running for 20 – 30-seconds, and you’re not overly tired.
  • Running accelerations can help to loosen your muscles and break up the monogamy of aerobic training by enhancing leg-speed and injecting some ‘spark’ into your legs.
Related Articles

3 Types Of Hill Runs (And, Where To Run Hills In Singapore)

How To Enjoy Your Running (And Any Other Exercise)

Ben Pulham

Ben Pulham is the founder of Coached, a personalised training programme that helps runners & triathletes optimise, track and enjoy their training.