ATC 303: Should You Increase Your Stride Length or Stride Rate? How To Prep For Hot Race When, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, and Getting in Vertical Training Without Hills

January 17, 2020


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James Proctor asks:

Training in Cold Climate for a Hot Weather Race

While my question is specific to one race, I think that triathletes from close to half or one third of the country have pondered this issue.

I got a medical deferral to Ironman Arizona 2020 and I have purchased a plan on Training Peaks which has two rides over six hours each (one at the end of October and the other at the  beginning of November). Temperatures here in Eastern Washington are hovering in the mid 40s to low 50s during the day and some days haven’t even reached 40.

I dread the idea of riding on an indoor trainer for over six hours and I know how important it is to be on the road to sharpen bike handling skills. I got some great ideas off of the Slowtwitch forum but was curious if you or one of your great coaches had any input. I think I could handle a few hours outside bundled up and layers if it isn’t raining (rain, wind and 40 degree temperatures can be miserable).

If you feel this could warrant a few minutes on your podcast, I think it would help a lot of people.

What the Coaches say:

  • Wearing multiple layers that don’t vent can create a micro-climate of 100 degrees F. You’ll be fine!
  • Sauna sessions (not steam room) after workouts at the gym can also help you adapt to the heat.
  • Consider doing race recon training. If it’s possible, do a quick trip in the late summer to Arizona to train.
  • Bike handling skills come from short rides and technical rides, so don’t worry that trainer rides will take away from that.
  • Almost everyone hates long rides on the trainer! Lucho suggests cutting the 6-hour bike on the trainer.
    • Consider instead doing 2 rides a day:
      • Morning = 2×20 min hard on the trainer
      • Evening = 2 hours aerobic
    • Tawnee, on the other hand, thinks there is a payoff to dealing with the tedium of long rides. But it’s best to do these outside.
  • IMAZ isn’t too technical of a course (it’s 3 out-and-backs without hills). Don’t stress too much about bike handling.

Kevin G. from KY asks:

Vertical Gain Training

I love the show! I live in Kentucky with relatively few hills for training. I have been running ultras for a couple years and wanted to know your and Lucho’s thoughts on how to train for races with significantly more vertical gain than I can am able to find.  My current approach is to use strength training and the stair machine. But this comes at a cost of less time actually running.

Notes for context:

1) I typically train 6x per week. 2x for full body lifting. And 4x for cardio with 1 of those being on the stair machine and the other 3 running.

2) My hilliest running route can get about 60ft/mile and I’m doing 50k – 100m with up to 200ft/mi.

3) East coast races to altitude is not a factor. Just elevation gain.

What the Coaches say:

  • The stairmaster doesn’t help you with the overriding problem of downhill pounding.
  • Lucho recommends eliminating one of your full-body lifting days and replacing it with a run that incorporates plyometrics, such as squat jumps, walking lunges, or bulgarian split squats.
    • Consider going to a football field and running diagonal across the field then doing plyometrics across the end zone. Repeat as appropriate. If you can do 10 intervals, then you’re good.
    • If you can build up enough durability then you can start loading your squats.
    • Lucho’s challenge to anyone: try doing 100 walking lunges! (Good luck walking the next day 😉 )
  • This plyometric approach is very helpful for “weak” runners who are not durable.
  • Hill repeats would obviously be helpful. The incline doesn’t need to be too steep.
    • Consider taking a weekend trip to a hilly area to train. You can reap lasting benefits from hill training only once a month.

Jason T. asks:

What equals a low stride rate?

On a recent show you listed risk factors for injury and a low turnover was one of them (I think!). Simple question — what stride rate is ‘low’?

What the Coaches say:

  • There’s no magical stride rate number. Though the classic answer is that a low stride rate is under 170.
  • It’s worth getting a run analysis done by a professional to determine if you’re running at too low a stride rate.
  • Ankle collapse is a telling sign of a too-low stride rate.

John C. asks:

Should you really increase your stride rate?

Hi Endurance Planet.  Firstly, I enjoy listening to you guys, keep up the great work!


I am a fairly serious runner, a 2:55 marathoner.  For some time I have heard on this podcast and elsewhere that a higher stride frequency is preferable, all things being equal.  Most elites hold a cadence in the 180 and so should we, for optimal performance. Research also seems to point to less ‘ground time’  (i.e. your foot’s contact with the pavement) as being similarly advantageous, and a feature of good running mechanics.

However, are these really the causes of faster running or just symptoms?  All things being equal, if I increase my cadence, I necessarily run faster.  While running faster, my time on the ground will shrink as time suspended in the air increases, right?  Is this advice akin to saying: you can run faster if you just move your legs back and forth faster? If so is this sorta of empty and meaningless advice?  Or am I missing something? Your thoughts… ?

What the Coaches say:

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