Hitting Your Stride

When I was running my final long run, something different happened. Something that had never happened to me before. I hit what runners always call “my stride.”

From what I’ve learned, hitting your stride is when your body reaches a “relaxed” state when exercising, where tension is controlled so that you don’t get tired too quickly. People often describe it as being “in the zone,” when there are no other distractions and you just keep running. The pain isn’t unbearable or uncomfortable, and your breathing is regulated.

Based on my experiences with running, I started to doubt that this “stride” actually existed. I don’t know about you, but when I run, it hurts. Sure, I feel great after I do it (I’m a “hurt so good” kind of gal), but during the run I often have to distract myself in a variety of ways so I’m not focusing on the pain.

This was not the case during my 11-mile trek. As I moved along, the pain in my legs slowly started to subside and I found myself able to focus on the movement of my body and the flow of my breathing. By the time I hit mile six, I realized that my breathing felt normal, just like it does when I’m not working out.

I was stunned.

Re-enactment of my stunned face.

“How could my breathing be this normal when I’m running 11 miles?!”

This thought ran through my head about a dozen times before it really sank in. Once it registered, I just wanted to dance! I couldn’t stop smiling and I’m pretty sure some of my neighbors thought I was crazy. I could talk (choppily, mind you) and my legs just kept moving without any recognition of the pain of such a high distance.

I think one of the reasons I hadn’t hit my stride before was because I was so focused on achieving it. I always tried to be mentally aware of this state of running because so many runners talked about it. Why couldn’t I have it? Many note that they hit their stride around mile five, so every time I would pass that marker, I’d get frustrated. This added more tension to my body, so it makes sense that I couldn’t hit my stride before. Once I relaxed, it finally settled in. It didn’t hit me until mile six, so it’s different for everyone.

Basically, my point is this: if you haven’t hit your stride yet, don’t worry. Just keep trekking along because it will happen eventually. At least, that’s what happened to me. I relaxed my body and kept moving, and then it happened. It may come out of nowhere, but you’ll realize it when it does.

Here’s a great article on rhythm and running from Running Mechanics to help you learn more about hitting your own stride, so you can prep for it a bit more than I did and maybe avoid the shocked face.

How did you feel the first time you hit your stride?

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Posted on March 28, 2011, in Exercise, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Umm…haha…I have a hard time believing I’ll ever be the type of person that hits their stride, but I will take your experience as an encouraging example of what COULD happen.

  2. I’ve actually never heard the term “hitting your stride” – I’m not really a runner, but just started running 2 months ago to train for the More 1/2 Marathon this weekend. I’ve definitely experienced it, though, and it’s funny to hear it’s an actual “thing!”

    It feels wonderful to hit your stride and feel like you can run forever. I think of it as working through the pain and gaining strength, when I get to that point in my run I’ve “hit my stride” (usually around mile 6/7 as well).

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