Master running cadence is the key to unlocking the secret to running faster and takes up a large proportion of any runner’s week. When we are not actually running, we may be thinking about running (either how to do it better next time, or how sore/tired we are from last time!)
One of the keys to running faster is master running cadence. This means increasing the rate of turnover in the legs. Unfortunately, many runners decide to take longer strides instead and slow their cadence. They focus on pushing themselves forward with their rear leg and lengthening their placement of their front leg.
But this does not work!
The further your leg reaches out in front of you, the slower you become. It is like putting the brakes on. You have to wait for your body to catch up before moving forward again. This sadly, over time results in many injuries, frustration and minimal improvement in running speed.
When placing the front foot down, think about placing it down not very far in front of you, or if possible, under your center of gravity.
Notice Mo Farrah (2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist for 5km, and 10km) and all the world class runners around him, have a forward lean in the body. Notice, even though they have a high knee lift, they actually place their foot down under their body with a bent knee- NOT way out in front with a straight leg.
The Pose method will help you master running cadence. It teaches using the power of gravity to “fall forward” using momentum rather than effort. So think of the position your body when you lean forward from the ankles (not the waist). Think about running in this position-a slight lean forward- like you are falling.
You can practice this against a wall. Place your feet away from a wall, then fall towards the wall catching yourself with your hands. Keep your feet where they are. Look at your position. Hopefully you are leaning forward, your weight on the balls of your feet and your body straight.
The most efficient way to run is to focus on spending more time in the air(where you are fastest), and less time on the ground (where you are slowest).
To run faster, focus on increasing your cadence rather than reaching your leg further out in front of you.
Master Running Cadence: What Is Ideal Cadence?
To run at a faster speed, the goal is to increase your cadence, pulling your foot from the ground quicker. The less time you are on the ground equals more time in the air, which is where forward movement happens. As soon as you have pulled your foot up from the ground, immediately pull up the other; this is how you increase travel distance.
Ideal cadence is around 180 strides per minute. As you increase your speed, also increase your cadence. As soon as your foot touches the ground, lift it up…
Runners can improve their stride length—the distance they travel (in the air)—by practicing with a metronome. 180 strides per minute is the goal for most runners. Many amateur runners run at 150 strides per minute.
In the video below, Moses Mosop runs at 192spm and lands mid foot: Check it out::
Sprinters aim for 230 strides per minute or above.
Michael Johnson who held the 200m Olympic sprint record for an astonishing 12 years had a 300 strides per minute rate!
(You can buy a running metronome to measure this or count it out as you run with a stop watch!) It is worth finding out what you currently do and improving it. This alone can be a game changer and teach you to run more efficiently.
How To Use The Running Metronome As Your Secret Weapon To Master Running Cadence
The first time I heard of a running metronome, I thought it was hilarious!
However, having tried it, I found it to be incredibly liberating rather than stifling (as I was expecting)! Here are my tips on using it. There are also tools like Lumo Run which helps measure your cadence. This is a much more thorough run tracker measuring cadence and helping you gradually get to your target. And it also gives you feedback on your stride length and braking.
1. Measure your current cadence
Go out for an easy run on a flat course. In order to master running cadence, you first need to know where you are now. After about 5 minutes of running, turn on the metronome and match the beep of the metronome with the cadence of your right foot. It may take a minute or two for you to perfectly align both, but just listen and adjust the metronome to beep faster or slower until it’s a perfect match with your stride rate.
When you’ve done this look at the beats/minute reading on your metronome and you’ll know your current cadence. Anything below 160 strides per minute means that your stride is too long for the speed you’re running. In my experience, most amateur runners have a cadence that is too slow. If your cadence is too slow you’ll spend too much time in the “support phase” of your stride and your legs will have to work harder than they need to.
2. Run at this Cadence for One Week
Practice running at your measured cadence for one week. Let’s say for example that it’s 150 strides per minute. Set your metronome to beep at that rate and start it when you begin your run. For every run in this first week, practice matching your cadence to the beat of the metronome with every step you take if you can. This will train you to maintain a steady cadence no matter what your speed. That’s right! Your cadence should stay the same whether you’re running fast or slow, up or downhill, or trying to catch a bus. Keep it the same, no matter what!
When running down hill, it will seem like the metronome has slowed down or that you have a faulty metronome. You don’t. But what could and should happen is that your stride lengthens behind you when you run faster or downhill. When you go up a hill you’ll notice that you need to shorten your stride to keep the same cadence. As your stride length changes with any increase or decrease in your speed you’ll begin to feel more ease and flow in your running.
3. Increase your cadence to fall between 170-180 strides per minute
Start wherever you then increase your cadence just one beat per minute every week until you get to a tempo of 170spm. By upping your cadence only one beat per week, your body will not even notice the cadence increase. When you finally get up to a tempo of 170 strides per minute, stay at that level for a couple of weeks. After that, if you feel the need to increase your cadence, resume increasing your cadence by one stride per minute each week until you reach your optimal cadence or 180 spm, whichever comes first.
4. Use Your New Cadence to Improve Your Running Technique
There is no better training tool than a metronome for learning to vary your stride length to accommodate different speeds. Once you’re comfortable running with your metronome do this workout. Start your metronome and do this workout with the beep going the entire time. Warm up for 5 minutes and then, without missing a beat, run one minute intervals changing gears every minute.
You can change up or down in only your first three gears, but one thing you can’t do is change your cadence.
Here are the four gears:
First gear – warm-up speed (very easy pace)
Second gear – training speed (the pace you would run your longest run)
Third gear – race speed (the pace you would run a race)
Fourth gear – sprint speed (anerobic – your top speed)
Great Speed Drills To Help You Master Running Cadence
Drills: Yep you knew they were coming!
A great drill to help improve your cadence is to practice hopping.
Sounds strange I know.
Hopping improves your muscle elasticity. It increase the “spring” in your step.
Drill 1: Warm up first. Then stand with your knees bent, body weight in the ball of your foot and start hopping. Maintain the knee bend. Do 10 hops, run 10 meters, change legs and repeat three times.
Skipping for a few minutes daily with a jump rope will also help.
Think about being light on your feet.
Think about your feet hardly touching the ground.
Listen to your steps as you run. Aim to be light and hardly make any sound.
Try not to sound like the elephant approaching with huge slapping or thudding sounds as your foot touches the earth.
Drill 2: Once a week, include a short interval session, 20 sec to 2 minutes.
Do repeats from 6-12 (6 X 400 meters or for 8 X 200 meters or 12 X 100 meters). Set your running metronome at 195-200.
Long intervals are also a good add and can be included in longer runs as ‘pick ups.’ For example, run 10K and sprint every odd mile and recover on the evens.
Running Shoes To Help You Master Running Cadence
Whilst not a barefoot runner, I am a fan of low rise shoes. If you have a huge cushioned heel, it is almost impossible to strike the ground correctly on your midfoot. Big cushioned gel heels, encourage you to heel strike which sets up a poor running pattern. If you have flat feet or get regular foot and ankle pain, you may benefit from some running insoles to correct your foot position.
Try on different shoes and talk to experts in the running stores. Most of them let you do a test run up and down the street before purchase. And most online lines will also have a similar returns policy. I am not going to recommend any one brand but Inov-8, Merrell, Vibram and New Balance all have good range with minimal heel lift that help encourage correct foot placement.
Of course comfort is king. If you are thinking of changing shoes, never make a massive switch quickly. Change very gradually or you may get injured. In new shoes, wear them for a 10 minute run only. Then a 15 minute run and build up slowly. Many runners who say “barefoot” or minimalist running shoes gave them injruies, simply bought them then contiuned their normal training volume. Do NOT do this. Any chance must be slowly and gently introduced.
The ability to master running cadence is not difficult. It is worth understanding your cadence and working to improve it. It will improve your efficiency, speed and help make running effortless and so much more enjoyable.
Happy (and swift) Running
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