Ready to level up your running game and become a speed demon while reducing the risk of pesky injuries? Then you should work on increasing your running cadence. Trust me, it’s the key that both elite and recreational runners swear by to up their game.
Now, you might be wondering, “What on earth is cadence, and why is it such a big deal?” Allow me to shed some light on the matter. Cadence refers to the number of steps you take per minute while running.
But here’s the exciting part: by fine-tuning your cadence, you can unlock a world of benefits. It’s like discovering a hidden superpower that enhances your running performance. Imagine running with more efficiency, power, and grace—all while reducing the risk of those dreaded injuries that can put a halt to your training.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How can I improve my running cadence?” Fear not for I’ve got you covered. I’ve discovered seven tried-and-true methods that are not only simple but also highly effective and oh-so-easy to implement.
So, are you ready to step up your game and discover the power of cadence? Let’s dive right in and make those strides count!
What is the Ideal Running Cadence?
Cadence, also known as stride rate or leg turnover, is simply the number of steps you take within a given time frame, typically measured per minute. It’s a fascinating metric that holds the key to unlocking your true running potential and improving your form. And today, we’re diving deep into the world of cadence to unravel its secrets.
Now here’s the juicy part. You may have heard that the ideal running cadence is around 180 steps per minute, a number often touted as the golden standard. But here’s the twist: there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no one-size-fits-all, universal running cadence that works for every runner. It’s time to challenge the conventional thinking that has permeated most running circles.
So, where did this magical number of 180 steps per minute come from? Let’s trace its origins.
Picture yourself transported back to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, where a renowned exercise scientist named Jack Daniels was observing the world’s top runners. He meticulously studied their total stride rate and made an intriguing discovery. Among these elite athletes, the fastest and most efficient runners tended to maintain a cadence of at least 180 steps per minute, with some even soaring to 200 SPM.
However, here’s where the plot thickens. It seems that over time, both through personal experiences and careful examination of the research, it becomes evident that much of Daniels’ work has been taken out of context whenever the 180 SPM rule is mentioned. The story has been diluted, losing the nuances and individuality that make each runner unique.
You see, running cadence is a complex interplay of various factors, such as height, weight, fitness level, leg length, and personal biomechanics. What works for one runner may not necessarily work for another. We are like snowflakes, each with our own distinct rhythm and style.
Research papers and studies have begun to shed light on the reality of running cadence. They emphasize the importance of finding an optimal cadence that suits your own body and running mechanics. It’s about discovering the cadence that allows you to run efficiently, comfortably, and without injury.
The 180-SPM Debunked
While Jack Daniels’ findings have been influential, it’s important to remember that his conclusion is not a universal law engraved in stone. Recreation runners, this message is especially for you: the 180-SPM cadence is not a mandatory requirement imposed by the running gods.
Here’s the reality: the 180-SPM rule represents the statistical average of what is considered an efficient running cadence. It serves as a reference point, but it doesn’t mean you must strictly adhere to it. You won’t be breaking any “running commandments” if you take slightly more or fewer steps per minute. We’re all unique individuals with our own running styles and rhythms.
Recent studies have delved deeper into the world of cadence, shedding light on its intricacies. They reveal that cadence is not a one-size-fits-all concept. It’s influenced by a multitude of factors, such as pace, terrain, and individual biomechanics. We are all wonderfully diverse, and what works best for one runner or a group of elite Olympic athletes may not necessarily work for everyone else.
So, what should you do instead? Listen closely to the scientists in the field of biomechanics, my friend. They suggest measuring your current cadence and setting a realistic goal to increase it by five to ten percent. The focus is on gradual progress and finding your optimal cadence, even if it doesn’t align precisely with the magic number of 180 SPM.
Think of it as a journey of self-discovery. Just like tuning an instrument, you’re fine-tuning your running cadence to achieve harmony and efficiency. Embrace the joy of experimentation and improvement, knowing that your cadence is unique to you and your body’s capabilities.
Improving Your Running Cadence
Now that you have a clear understanding of what cadence is as well as the many factors that affect it, you can work on improving it (if need be).
Here are a few guidelines that can help.
Find Your Running Cadence
To embark on this journey of improvement, you first need to determine your current leg turnover—the rhythm that fuels your stride.
Remember, your cadence isn’t a fixed number etched in stone. It varies depending on the type of run you’re tackling. When you’re pushing the pace during speedy training sessions, your cadence naturally tends to be quicker compared to your leisurely long runs. Uphill or downhill sections also influence your leg turnover, adding a flavorful twist to the mix.
To make sense of it all, let’s establish your cadence zones by uncovering your leg turnover for different paces and training scenarios. Whether it’s a recovery run, 5K training, tempo run, or even a marathon, each has their own unique cadence.
The Basic Run Cadence Test
Now, here’s a simple and practical way to determine your basic run cadence. Find yourself a smooth, flat surface that invites your running shoes to dance.
Once you’re warmed up and ready to roll, settle into your usual running pace. As you find your rhythm, start counting the number of foot strikes made by either your right or left foot in one minute. Yes, just focus on one foot for now to avoid confusion. Let’s keep it simple and straightforward.
For instance, let’s say your chosen foot strikes the ground a delightful 77 times within that minute. Now, here’s where the magic happens. Double that number to account for both feet, and voila! You’ve got yourself the total number of steps, which in this case would be 154.
So, for that specific running speed, your cadence is 154 steps per minute.
The Multi-Pace Cadence Test
Now, my running companion, let’s take our cadence exploration to the next level with the dynamic and invigorating Multi-Pace Cadence Test. This test will truly put your legs to the test and unveil the nuances of your stride at different paces.
To embark on this thrilling endeavor, find yourself a trusty treadmill to hop on. After a solid 10-minute warm-up to get those muscles firing, gradually increase the speed by 30 seconds per mile until you reach your easy training pace.
Once you’ve settled into your newfound speed, give yourself a couple of minutes to adjust and find your rhythm. Then, my friend, it’s time to start counting. For one whole minute, focus on the beauty of your foot strikes and tally up those steps.
Don’t forget to record the number of steps you took at that pace. It’s like capturing a fleeting moment of running magic, preserving it for future analysis and improvement. If you prefer the open embrace of a track, feel free to conduct the test there as well. However, treadmills offer a controlled environment that enhances accuracy, especially if you’re already acquainted with your average pace.
Increase Your Leg Turnover By 5 to 10 Percent
Now that you’ve gathered your numbers and become a connoisseur of your cadence, it’s time to embark on the journey of improvement. But remember, my eager friend, patience is the name of the game. Just like a delicate masterpiece, your cadence needs nurturing and gradual refinement.
According to the wisdom bestowed upon us by the researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the key to safe and efficient cadence improvement lies in small increments. So, let’s aim to increase your cadence by a humble 5 to 10 percent at a time. This measured approach ensures that your body adapts smoothly to the changes, reducing the risk of undue strain.
Let’s say your easy run cadence is currently at a charming 156spm. Your goal, my determined friend, is to elevate it to a range between 163 and 169 steps per minute. It’s like adding an extra sprinkle of energy to your stride, enhancing your running experience.
Add “Faster Cadence” Segments
Imagine this: you’re out on your favorite running route, the sun kissing your skin, and the wind whispering encouragement in your ears. As you set out, choose specific segments during your run where you’ll embrace your new leg turnover, like an adventurous detour from the familiar path.
For instance, you can start with one-minute intervals of slightly quicker cadence, followed by three to five minutes of your base rhythm. As you move through these intervals, let the rhythm guide you, finding the sweet spot between effort and grace.
Alternatively, you can opt for a distance-based approach. Picture this: every third mile becomes your canvas for exploration. During these designated miles, unleash your newfound leg turnover while maintaining the same effort level as before.
With consistent practice, these cadence segments will become second nature, effortlessly blending into the fabric of your runs. You’ll no longer need to consciously think about them; they’ll become ingrained in your muscle memory, like the fluid motion of a seasoned dancer or the effortless strokes of a master painter.
Your first session at this improved cadence might look as follows:
- 10 minutes warm-up
- One minute easy running at a cadence of 164
- Five minute easy running at base cadence
- One minute easy running at a cadence of 165
- Five minute easy running at base cadence
- One minute easy running at a cadence of 166
- 5-minute cool-down.
Take Small Steps
I’m about to reveal a little secret to increasing your running cadence. It’s all about form, my friend. Picture this: imagine you’re a painter, and your stride is the brush that paints the canvas of the road. To create a masterpiece, you need to make some artful adjustments.
Now, here’s the thing: you won’t be able to boost your cadence by simply running faster. Instead, focus on reducing your stride length. Take smaller steps, like a gentle shuffle, keeping your feet closer to the ground. It’s as if your feet are engaged in a graceful dance, barely leaving a mark but still propelling you forward. Just remember to be cautious on trails and rugged terrains, as they might require a bit more lift.
I understand it might feel a tad awkward at first, like trying out a new dance move for the first time. But trust me, as you continue your training, this form adjustment will become second nature. You’ll embody the fluidity of a seasoned dancer, effortlessly gliding through each step.
Additional source – Here’s the full guide to average stride length.
Use a Cadence Metronome
I’ve got an exciting tool to aid you in this cadence adventure: the metronome. It’s like having your own personal conductor orchestrating the tempo of your run.
With a metronome, you no longer have to worry about counting your steps per minute. Simply set the device to your desired cadence, and let the rhythmic clicks or beats guide your stride.
Now, you might be wondering where to find this marvelous metronome. Fear not! In this modern era, there’s an app for everything, including metronomes tailored for runners like yourself.
Check out Audiostep, Cadence Trainer, or BeatRun for a digital metronome experience. If you’re sporting a fancy running watch, such as the Garmin 735XT, you might even find a built-in metronome feature right at your wrist.
Use the 180 Beats Songs
Let me share with you another clever trick to boost your cadence and make it more enjoyable. It involves the magical power of music. Picture yourself hitting the pavement, each step in perfect sync with the rhythm, as if you and the melody were one.
Here’s the plan: grab your trusty music player and start curating a playlist that will propel you towards your goal cadence. Aim for songs that have a tempo of around 180 beats per minute (bpm), or close to your desired cadence. Why? Because when your foot strikes align with the beats, something magical happens. Your body effortlessly falls into the rhythm, and your strides become as smooth as a well-choreographed dance routine.
Now, you might be wondering where to find such musical gems. Fear not! There are fantastic tools available to help you on this musical quest.
One option is to use online platforms like JogTunes, where you can explore playlists tailored to specific running cadences. These websites are treasure troves filled with songs that match a variety of cadences. So whether you’re a fan of upbeat pop, groovy hip-hop, or energizing rock, there’s a playlist waiting for you.
To make it even easier, you can also find programs that analyze songs and provide the beats per minute information. Simply feed your favorite tunes into these magical programs, and they will reveal the secrets of their tempo. It’s like having your own personal DJ and music researcher all in one.
Now, here’s the key: as you hit the road with your customized playlist, make sure to keep a steady pace. Let the music guide your feet, ensuring that every foot strike lands precisely on the beat. It’s a symphony of motion and melody, where your running transforms into a harmonious experience.
Practice Fast Cadence Drills
If you’re seeking to kick your cadence up a notch, drill exercises are here to save the day.
Let me walk you through one drill that can make a real difference. Imagine yourself standing tall, ready to unleash your inner running machine. Assume an athletic stance, feet comfortably apart, core engaged, and back straight. It’s time to get those arms involved too, just like you would while running.
Start by marching in place, swinging your arms with purpose. Feel the rhythm, let your body loosen up. Once you’ve got the hang of it, pick up the pace and transition into a jog. Lift those knees high, powerfully driving your arms across your body. Now, here’s where the magic happens—run in place as fast as you can, as if your feet were dancing on hot coals.
Remember, speed is the name of the game during these drills. Embrace the challenge, push your limits, and feel the surge of energy as your legs move with lightning speed. Keep your posture upright, gazing forward rather than fixating on your feet. Let your knees point straight ahead, while your heels gently kiss the ground.
But wait, there’s more! I have three additional drills that I swear by, each with its own unique flavor of awesomeness.
Let’s dive in!
First up is the Drum Major drill, a true conductor of cadence mastery. Check out the video for a visual demonstration. This drill will have you stepping forward with your right foot and driving your left arm forward simultaneously. Then, switch it up by stepping forward with your left foot and driving your right arm forward. It’s like leading an imaginary marching band, orchestrating the perfect rhythm for your legs.
Next, we have the Butt Kicks drill. Prepare to unleash your inner sprinter as you jog forward, lifting your heels towards your glutes with each step. Feel the gentle kick of your heels brushing against your backside, reminding you of the power you possess.
Last but not least, we have the High Knees drill. This one is all about embracing the joy of elevation. As you jog forward, bring those knees up towards the sky, reaching for new heights with every stride. Feel the energy surging through your body as your legs soar through the air, defying gravity itself.
Do Workouts That Require Faster Leg Turnover
Workouts that demand a faster leg turnover are like secret weapons in your training arsenal, helping you unlock the hidden potential of your stride rate. But before we dive in, a word of caution: like any powerful tool, they must be handled with care. Bad form or lack of conditioning can increase the risk of injury, so be mindful as you embark on this exhilarating journey.
Let’s start with strides, the burst of energy that can ignite your running prowess. Picture this: you’ve just completed your regular workout, feeling the satisfaction of a job well done. Now it’s time to push yourself further. Begin by accelerating rapidly, giving it your all at 80 to 90 percent of maximum effort. Each stride should last around 20 to 30 seconds, just enough to leave a blazing trail behind you.
To incorporate strides into your routine, simply add them at the end of your workout. As you embark on those final moments of exertion, channel your focus into lightning-fast leg turnover and a powerful arm drive. Give it your all for those precious seconds, feeling the surge of energy propelling you forward. Then, grant yourself a well-deserved two-minute recovery before repeating the exhilarating process.
Start with four strides a couple of times per week, gradually building up your capacity. After three to four weeks of dedication, amp it up to six or eight strides. These mini-explosions of speed will train your muscles to react and move with agility, naturally improving your stride rate.
Now, let’s venture into the realm of downhill sprints, where technique meets velocity.
Imagine standing atop a hill, the world stretching out before you, ready to be conquered. After a thorough warm-up on a flat surface to awaken your muscles, seek out a hill with a gradient incline of 4 to 6 percent.
As you embark on the descent, let gravity guide your speed, gradually accelerating until you reach maximum velocity at the hill’s end.
But here’s the key: resist the temptation to overstride. Instead, focus on reducing your stride length, allowing for a swift and nimble turnover.
Once you’ve completed your sprint, take a gentle jog or walk back to the top, allowing your body to recover before diving into another exhilarating round.
Engage in this thrilling dance between gravity and speed for 15 to 20 minutes, immersing yourself in the invigorating challenge. Remember, the goal is not only to enhance your technique but also to increase your leg turnover, paving the way for a more efficient stride.
As you embark on these workouts, keep in mind the importance of balance and moderation. Monitor your form, listen to your body, and gradually build up your capacity.
Take Your Time
Just as we navigate life’s challenges, taking measured steps can be the key to success. Rushing headlong into uncharted territory often leads to regrets and setbacks. The same principle applies to improving your running cadence—it’s a journey that requires patience, time, and a sprinkle of scientific know-how.
Let’s face it: boosting your running cadence is not exactly rocket science. However, it’s not a task you can conquer in a single bound. Think of it as a delicate dance between your body and the rhythm of your strides. Attempting to force an overnight transformation in your cadence is like trying to soar to the moon without the proper rocket fuel—you’re bound to crash and burn.
Instead, I implore you to embrace the concept of gradual progress. Give yourself the gift of time—several months, in fact—to allow your body to adapt to the new cadence.
It’s during this period of adaptation that the real magic happens, as your muscles, tendons, and proprioceptive system align themselves to the rhythm of your aspirations.
Research studies have shown that a full transition and adaptation to a faster cadence typically takes around six to eight weeks. Like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, your body will undergo a beautiful metamorphosis.
During this transformative journey, it will require unwavering focus and unyielding commitment from you. Picture yourself as a conductor of an orchestra, guiding the symphony of your movements. As you refine your stride rate, don’t forget to pay attention to the harmonious interplay of your knee drive and foot landing. Think of it as conducting a symphony, with each note (or step) contributing to the grand composition.
Maintaining proper knee drive allows your legs to generate power, propelling you forward with grace and vigor. Imagine the sweeping motion of a pendulum, each swing elevating you to new heights. And as you land, aim for a midfoot strike beneath your body, like a skilled tightrope walker finding balance on a thin wire. This technique minimizes the stress on your joints and maximizes your running efficiency.
New to Running? Start Here…
If you’re serious about running, getting fit, and staying injury free, then make sure to download my Runners Blueprint Guide!
Inside this guide, you’ll learn how to start running and lose weight weight the easy and painless way. This is, in fact, your ultimate manifesto to becoming a faster and a stronger runner. And you want that, don’t you?
Click HERE to check out my Runners Blueprint System today!
Don’t miss out! My awesome running plan is just one click away.
What I like about cadence is that it’s a straightforward concept.
Regardless of your current fitness level or training goals, you can always benefit from increasing your cadence.
Of course, it might feel odd during the first few sessions, but with practice and patience you can find your ideal training cadence and reap the benefits of increased running speed and reduced injury.
Feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
Thank you for reading my post