How to Maintain Stride Length in the Winter

Whether it’s bite-your-face-off windchill, foot-chilling slush puddles, or afternoons that turn too quickly to night, winter presents challenges to the runner trying to stay in racing shape. One of the challenges, particularly for runners who are chasing faster times, is how to maintain stride length in winter conditions.

We caught up with Andrew Pagé, a coach with the Ottawa Lions, to find out why winter is actually a great time to work on stride length and running efficiency.

So what is stride length and why is it important?

AP: Stride length, simply put, is the distance you cover in each step. To be an efficient runner, you want to find the optimal stride length for your event and body type.

How do you know when you’ve got the proper stride length?

AP: An optimal stride length should feel fluid and effortless. When you are overstriding, your hips drop, your foot lands in front of your hips, braking with every step, which adds impact to your legs. When understriding you are giving up easy energy from the push-off.

To nail your stride, it helps to have external feedback from a coach. The coach will analyze your gait, take into account all your variables and provide key feedback that will help you make the necessary corrections.

What are the key factors that influence stride length?

AP: Outside the runner’s general physical condition, leg strength, core strength, glute strength, range of motion and flexibility all contribute to posture, and therefore will have an effect on stride length.

How does winter impact these factors?

AP: During slippery winter months many runners take shorter steps and lower their center of gravity in order to deal with the poor footing. They also tend to modify their posture early and late in a long run to deal with weather conditions (cold/poor visibility) and fatigue. An entire winter of training in these conditions hurts optimal stride length. With diminished range of motion through the hips, glute and hips flexor strength reduced, poor posture, runners are often left with decreased efficiency come springtime. Then begins the task of rebuilding the speed they had in the fall.

So what can runners do about it?

AP: Here are three easy steps to maintain or improve stride length in order to be ready for that early spring race.

First, replace quantity with quality. Add one day of speed work over the winter months. There are few options. Many indoor facilities such as the Dome@Louis-Riel, Carleton University have indoor tracks, or you could always try an aggressive treadmill routine.

Second, incorporate weight training or various general strength routines into your workouts that will target specific weaknesses. A general strength routine pre-workout is a great way to warm up indoors on a cold day while activating your core and improving overall body strength. Weight training is another great way of increasing specific strength and/or strength endurance that is not incurred in winter running. Contrary to popular belief, you can weight train without getting bulky. Last but not least, a couple little plyometric circuits (ankle hops, box jumps etc…) will help transfer the newly acquired strength into power that result in a great powerful stride.

Third, increase the amount of time spent stretching. After each workout, start the recovery process with a shake or snack while you stretch. Remember to hold each stretch from 45 seconds to 2 minutes. Do this and you will note an increase in your range of motion: it will be easier to warm up for your next workout and those little nagging injuries might just vanish.

Here’s a bonus. If you can get inside where there is sure footing, and get the help of a coach (whether it’s from the Ottawa Lions, Running Room, Zone 3 or any similar organization) then you can work on improving running efficiency. Winter is the time to work on these components. Why not head into the spring season firing on all cylinders?

Thanks Andrew!


About the Ottawa Lions

The Ottawa Lions is Canada’s largest and most successful track and field club. A professionally managed non-profit organization with a large volunteer coaching staff, the Lions offers programs for runners of every age and aspiration and has members ranging in age from 6 to 80. In 2014, Lions athletes set two new Canadian records, four provincial records, and won a Commonwealth Games gold medal.

To learn more about all of the programs at the Ottawa Lions, visit or contact Andrew Page at