4. Rhythm is the key!
To minimize ground reaction force, energy loss and injuries while maximizing stride efficiency, it is preferable to keep your stride rate over 170 strides/min. Quality workouts (intervals, race pacing) should be done between 180 and 185 strides/min.
I love this subject and it is one that has gotten a ton of press recently on why a higher cadence is an effective tool for injury prevention and enhancing performance. You can find a list of my favorite articles at the bottom of this post and on the “Natural Running Resources” section of the mothership.
What the data suggests is that a higher cadence is a way to contact with the ground, for a shorter amount of time. One of my favorite analogies for this is the “hot potato effect” (side note: this was also the name of my band in high school). You can take a hot potato and quickly pass it from hand to hand. However, the longer you hold on to it there is a greater transfer of energy in the form of heat.
The same thing happens in running. The longer we spend on the ground there is a greater transfer of energy in the form of force per contact with the ground. Envision how your feel land and respond when we jump rope. The impact of this force is magnified when we land with our in front of our center of mass and on our heels. You would never land heel to toe when jumping rope because it is far more impactful, energy intensive and its harder to get into a rhythm. But the cool thing about practicing a quicker cadence is that it is easiest to do when landing on the forefoot under your center of mass.
The easiest way to practice this is with a metronome. Yes there is an app for that on most smart phones. You can also buy a digital one (under $20) from a local music store. The only issue I had with that was during the heat of the summer I sweat like a swamp monster. I have ruined three metronomes thus far. What I found to be most effective was the Finis Tempo Trainer. This is a metronome/stoke counter used by swimmers and it’s waterproof.
Working on a higher cadence will pay huge dividends in the long run. However, you will be using some muscles you don’t normally utilize. These will develop, but it takes some time and practice.
An easy way to start working on a higher cadence is to set the timer on your watch to go off every 10 minutes on your next run. When you hear the alarm turn your metronome on for one minute, run with it to the beat, then shut it off. Try this a few times per week. The objective is to be aware of your cadence, not to obsess on it (Yes I am speaking directly to you). What we ultimately want to do is to condition your body to make micro adjustments in efficiency (cadence, foot placement, form, posture, arm swing, etc.) on demand.
Start with this method a few time per week and listen to your body. It is the best coach.
Do not wait until all the conditions are perfect for you to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect. Crush it.
Got experience introducing a faster cadence into your running. I’d love to hear it and so would the tribe. Don’t be stingy and comment below.