Running Cadence

I first heard the term “cadence” in spin class several years ago. Cadence represents the amount of full revolutions taken per minute (rpm). This is pretty easy to understand for cycling, but in running a revolution can also be referred to as a stride.

I was reading an article on a triathlon website a few weeks ago that discussed how important cadence is to increasing your endurance and speed. I’ve always thought that in order to run fast, I needed to increase the length of my stride…I was wrong.

If you look at elite distance runners (like those pictured above); you will find that they all have a very similar cadence. They all run with a cadence of around 88-94 strides per minute. Finding your cadence is actually pretty easy. Just count the number of times that your right (or left) foot hits the ground in 20 seconds. Then multiply this number by 3.

During my run yesterday morning, I counted my cadence three different times. First time I counted 28 foot strikes in 20 seconds, this equals a cadence of 84. Other two times I was at 27 (cadence of 81). So as you can see, my cadence isn’t high enough. I’m not turning over my feet quick enough. But why does this matter?

1. A faster cadence means less impact and fewer injuries. With a lower cadence you spend more time in the air. A lower cadence causes you to come down harder on the ground with each landing. With a higher cadence and fewer injuries and running induced pain, we will be able to run more!
2. When spending more time in the air, you have greater opportunity for your leg to swing past your center of gravity and strike the ground in front of your body. A foot strike in front of your center of gravity actually slows your forward momentum down. When you don’t over stride, your foot strike and push-off work together to conserve and generate more momentum. So keep your cadence fast and your feet underneath you.
3. A higher cadence gives you more potential for speed when you bring the intensity up to a race pace effort. The bigger strides you take the further you are jumping from one foot to the other. You can only jump so far, so if you want to increase your speed, a higher cadence is the only way.

This sounds easy enough, but when I tried to increase my cadence to 90 (30 foot strikes in 20 seconds), my pulse rate jumped up to 172 very quickly. This means that I was working way too hard. So how do I improve my cadence without working too hard? I’ll share that tomorrow…

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