Whether you are just starting out running or are an advanced runner, it is important to improve your cadence and watch your form. Cadence can vary from person to person, but the general rule is about 170 strides or more per minute.
What is Cadence?
To improve your cadence, you must first understand what it is. A cadence is basically your stride rate or the number of steps you take per minute (SPM). The faster your stride rate, the better and quicker you run. On the opposite side, a lower cadence means you have a longer stride.
Some people overstride, which means slamming your heels into the ground and locking your knees as you take each step. This puts pressure on your body, especially your muscles and bones, which can cause injuries. Injuries can put you down for weeks and throw your training schedule off, so it is best to avoid overstriding.
A higher cadence allows your feet to land underneath you, which ultimately allows your feet to move faster. By having your feet landing under you, it puts your feet in the center of gravity, increases your turnover, and decreases your stride length. Overall, this increases your energy as you run because your body is focused on moving forward. A higher cadence also makes running more comfortable as you have a softer impact as your feet hit the ground.
How to Find Your Cadence
Now that you know what a cadence is, how do you find it? Some people say the optimal cadence is 180 SPM, but this does not mean it is true for everyone. In fact, you need to take into account your weight, height, and ability to find the right cadence.
The easiest way to track your cadence is with an app, such as RunFit. It will automatically track your cadence for you.
If that is not an option, you can count your steps as you run. To do this, count the number of times your right foot hits the ground for 30 seconds. Multiply that number by four and you have your cadence. To ensure accuracy, do this a few times. If you get different numbers each time, take the average of the numbers. The final number is your SPM or your cadence.
How to Improve Your Cadence
After you have your baseline cadence, now it is time to improve it. Take the number you calculated above and add five to 10 percent. For example, if you have a cadence of 170 then your goal would be 177 if you decided to increase by 10 percent. Increase your cadence for only two runs a week.
Once you get used to your new cadence, you can add five percent and repeat. Take the increases slow to reduce the chances of injury. It is important to note that it may take up to two months for you to get used to your new cadence.
Here are a few tips to improve your cadence:
- Focus on smaller steps
- Run to a beat
- Track your progress
- Do workouts like downhill sprints for a faster turnover
Increase for Speed
After working on your cadence for a while, it may feel like you have hit a plateau. Now it the time to increase your cadence for speed. There are a few different ways to do this.
A metronome is a good way to make sure you are running at a certain rhythm. When you have a metronome set, you don’t have to worry about counting the number of steps you take as long as you run with the beat. Metronomes can be set to certain beats per minute, so you can increase your cadence as needed. There are free metronomes apps that can be downloaded onto your phone.
Another method of increasing your cadence for speed is running in place. Stand in front of a mirror and run in place while you bring your knees halfway up. Do this for 20 seconds and then take a one-minute rest. When you run in place, count how many times your right foot hits the ground. Running in place like this is a drill that teaches your feet to get off the ground fast to increase your cadence. Repeat this drill a couple times a week and count whether your right foot hitting the ground increases over time.
A visualization is a powerful tool that many runners don’t think of using but is very useful. As you run, visual training with your improved cadence or picture yourself in a race. While you are visualizing this, your body and mind will perform like you are in racing condition. This trains your body to run faster and adjust to an increased cadence.
Take it Easy
Don’t try to increase your cadence too much too quickly as this will likely cause injury. Take it easy an increase your cadence slowly, which means about two to five steps per minute at a time. This should be gradual, over time, and can be done in intervals.
If you increase your cadence by time, you can run your original cadence for three to five minutes then run at a faster cadence for one minute. Repeat this cycle.
If you want to increase by distance, you can run every third mile at an increased cadence.
Keep in mind that it takes about six to eight weeks to adjust to the higher cadence. Once you adapt, you can go ahead and make a slight increase. As you do this, the next time you run a race, your muscles will remember how to run at a faster cadence and you will notice an increase in speed.
Putting it all Together
Increasing your cadence can help you run faster and prevent injuries. Make sure you keep an eye on your form as you increase your steps. Furthermore, take it easy and don’t increase too fast as this can result in injury. By following these steps, you will up your steps and increase your overall performance. If you are a brand-new runner and don’t know where to start, check out this beginner’s guide to get started.
Ruggero Loda is founder and editor at Running Shoes Guru – the only website that buys and tests more than 100 pairs of shoes each year to guarantee its independence and provide only expert, honest and unbiased running shoe reviews.