Is the key to improving your performance, and reducing running injuries found in your running cadence? There is definitely a huge connection and we'll get you up to speed on what it means, and how to do it.
So the first thing to get clear is the definition of Running Cadence, which is pretty straight forward to understand. Simply put, it's the number of times your feet contact the ground while running, usually expressed in a 1 minute time frame.
Typically most recreational runners will have a cadence of 150 - 170 steps per minute, with the top end usually maxing out around 180.
Before you can actually improve your running cadence however, you need to know what it actually is and where you're starting from. It's an easy number to figure out on your next run and you can do so in a couple ways:
Manual method - Count the number of times your right foot hits the ground while running over a 30 second time frame. Double this to get the number of times it would hit for 60 seconds and then double it again to account for both legs and viola..... you've got your cadence figured out. For example, if you count 40 steps, the math would be 40 X 2 = 80 X 2 = 160 Running Cadence.
Technology Method - If you're not a math wizard or don't like counting, the good news
is that many of the current GPS running watches can automatically determine your cadence for you. Take a look into your applicable post run data and chances are you will find the number there.
It's important to understand where you're starting from so you can work towards an ideal running cadence. Being in the 175 - 180 range is the goal, however this is not something that you can change over night. It takes time and training to get there.
What is your running cadence telling you?
If your running cadence is on the low end of the range (less than 165) it's often an indication that you're likely over striding and placing additional stress on your legs and knees. Typically lower stride rates are noticeable in runners that are heel strikers, a very common occurrence. In an effort to "speed up" heel strikers will often over stride, and reach out with their legs, resulting in an even more dramatic heel strike. While their running cadence stays the same, they may have more "speed" but the impact force increases and likelihood of injury skyrockets.
If your running cadence is on the higher end of the range (over 165) there's a good chance that you're stride is more effecicient. Runners with a higher running cadence have a shorter and quicker stride and typically are landing in a more mid foot position, which enables faster turn over. It's almost impossible to be a heel striker with a cadence of 175 - 180. The quicker turn over forces your feet to land directly below your hips and maximize your efficiency.
How to increase your running cadence.
As mentioned above, increasing running cadence is a journey, and one that will take you time to see improvement on. If you're starting at a lower number, say 160, it's not realistic or smart for that matter to try and get to 175 immediately. You need to set smaller goals of 5 steps per minute as an example over a longer period of time. This, done in conjunction with a focus on your overall running form, will help to get you turning over more efficiently.
So where do you start? Here's a few methods and tips to get you going.
Metronome App - There are apps such as RUN TEMPO that you can download to your phone and play through your earphones. You can control the tempo, which ultimately beeps in your ear at the speed you set it at. So for example you could program the app to 170 beats per minute and then try and have your feet landing on the beat. This tool is an effective way to feel what your target running cadence should be and gives you a straight sightline into where you're at. The constant beeping in your ear can get annoying, but turning it on even for the first 5 or 10 minutes of every run while you're trying to improve will help to teach you body where your running cadence should be.
Music pros and cons - Music can be a great tool or a killer on your cadence. If you're someone that normally runs with music, it's very common to find yourself "running to the beat". During a run this could mean your cadence fluctuates a lot, without you even knowing it. There
are music apps such as Spotify that have running playlists that allow you to pick songs with specific beats per minute that match your cadence, which can be a more relaxing way to find the right turn over rate. Lock in the perfect tunes and try and stay with the beat. If it's Justin Bieber.......turn it off immediately as it's highly unlikely that anything good could come from having that playing in your head.
Try these methods:
1. Treadmill Running. Using a treadmill is a great tool to use when focusing on developing your running cadence. Find the speed that lines up with your goal and keep it locked in as long as you feel comfortable. The constant speed of the treadmill will prevent you from slipping back on your speed and will enable you to feel how your turn over connects to your stride length.
2. Downhill Strides. Find a gentle downhill path with a 3-5% decline and practice running short bursts for 50 -75 meters. The downhill will promote a shorter stride and quicker turn over. The key is to ensure its a gradual decline and not a sharp hill that will get you running out of control.
3. Baby steps. Start working on your cadence on shorter runs and be patient as it will take time. By starting with knowing where your running cadence is at the start, you're well on your way of improving it. It's the theory of "what gets measured gets done". Set small goals and look to improve in smaller increments over a longer period of time.
What's your running cadence? Comment below and let us know. If you have questions, we're happy to answer.
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