This is the fun part. This is where your running will really come together. Understand cadence and your running will be changed forever. Cadence is the pace of your legs. The number of times you take a step. Your leg turnover. The magic that brings all other elements of the run together…
I’m not going to tell you that the $200 shoes you’re wearing are pointless, but I am going to tell you that your foot has all the cushioning technology that you require. Modern running shoes give you a buffer. They allow you to run with bad technique for a longer period before getting injured. But if you run well you utilise your muscle elasticity. This is the natural springiness of your tendons. The arch of your foot is suspension. When you drop your foot below your hips you are reducing impact. Increasing your cadence takes it a step further and provides a spring towards your next step.
Try this: stand up and bounce on your toes as though you are jumping rope. That’s fairly easy isn’t it? Not too difficult? Bounce faster. Much easier. That’s utilising the natural springiness of your muscles and tendons. Now try jumping slower. You jump, you land, your muscles need to re-fire to jump again. This is hard work. That slow jump replicates how you run if you have a slow cadence. It’s an effort.
180 steps per minute is the minimum turnover you want to run at to utilise muscle elasticity. That’s 90 steps with the left foot and 90 steps with the right. Most people run at about 160-170 steps. If you speed up your leg turnover you are tying together all elements of an efficient run. A good lean, a straight pull; no unnecessary movement. When you speed up your cadence you don’t have time to add unnecessary movement! Each of these elements feed off each other. Your straight pull reduces effort and allows you to speed up your cadence which uses your natural muscle elasticity and… reduces effort once again!
So How Do I…
So how do you speed up your cadence? Grab your phone, get on the app store and download a free metronome. The first one you find will do. Set it to 180bpm. Keep it beeping while you run on the spot and try to match your foot steps to the beat. That’s the minimum step count you want to be running at to get the benefit of natural muscle elasticity.
Your cadence will change depending on the distance you want to run. If you are going long 180 steps per minute will be fine. But as your distance gets shorter and your pace increases you want to increase your cadence. Michael Johnson, possibly the greatest 400m runner of all time ran at roughly 220-240spm. That’s hard work but if you follow the progression below there’s no reason you can’t sprint at 200spm and run comfortably for longer periods at 180spm.
Try this cadence set written by Brian Mackenzie:
• 4 x 30 sec @ 188spm
• A drill of your choice
• 4 x 1 min @ 182spm
Notice the short duration, fast cadence reps force you to move quickly and really shock the central nervous system, but the longer sets feel considerably slower? Running at 182spm before this drill would have been difficult before this.
Use this format:
• short duration/ fast cadence
• a drill
• longer duration/ slower cadence
and gradually increase this over time. If you step it up but you can’t hold form don’t be afraid to go back to the previous session. Some steps will take time to build the motor skills.
Theory Lessons Over
Now you understand the pose, the lean, the pull and the cadence you have all the information you need. Keep doing the drills to really embed the movement patterns. Focus on good posture when running and keep the distance short until you can hold good form for longer. Running with bad technique reinforces poor movement but every step you take with great technique engrains that good movement and you are that much closer to this becoming second nature.
If you have any questions please contact me. I would love to hear about your progress.
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