The right cadence will help you run faster and protect your knees
What is cadence
In a general sense, cadence is the number of actions per minute. For cyclists it is the cadence of the pedals, and for runners it is the rate of steps.
To determine your natural cadence, count your steps in 30 seconds of running and then multiply the value by two.
For convenience, you can count touching the ground with only one foot, such as the right foot, and then multiply the value by four.
Typically, beginner runners have a cadence of 150 to 170 and experienced runners have a cadence of 180.
Why know your cadence
The higher your cadence, the faster you can run. During the 1984 Olympics, coach Jack Daniels observed the stride rate of 46 professional long-distance runners and noticed that only one had a cadence less than 180 (176). At the same time, he noted that most beginners take fewer steps.
Since then, a cadence of about 180 has been considered something of a gold standard in the running community. But it’s important not only for speed, but also for joint health.
In 2011, scientists found that when cadence was increased by 5-10%, there was less stress on the knees and hips. The researchers concluded that a slight increase in step rate is a good prevention of running injuries.
Is there a perfect cadence?
People like to generalize and simplify, so Jack Daniels’ observations have become a myth about the “ideal cadence of 180 steps per minute.” In fact, the cadence of professional runners is not necessarily 180, and often exceeds it. For example, three-time Olympic long-distance champion and record holder Kenenisa Bekele does 186 steps per minute, while two-time Olympic silver medalist Sileshi Sihine does 192.
A runner’s ideal cadence depends on many factors, including body structure, although it is not necessarily related to leg length.
A 1995 study showed that people with long legs have a slightly lower step rate than shorter legs. But the highest (176) and lowest (144) natural cadence were observed in people with the same leg length.
Therefore, you should not be guided by general figures or rely entirely on the peculiarities of your constitution. To improve your cadence, you should start from the way you feel most comfortable running.
How to increase your cadence
There is no formula for the ideal cadence, so you can only find it as you train, comparing different step rates and the results of your runs.
If your cadence is less than 180, it’s worth working on increasing it. But that doesn’t mean you should go straight to 180 after a comfortable 160 steps per minute: try increasing your cadence by 5%, to 168. This will take some of the load off your knees, increase your speed, and provide better technique.
It is not necessary to run at this cadence for the whole workout. You can choose one time segment and try to maintain the target cadence, and run at a comfortable cadence the rest of the time.
Increase the target cadence from workout to workout until you feel comfortable with it.
After that, you can increase the cadence by another 5% and wait again until your body gets used to it.
How to maintain a set cadence
Download an app with a metronome, and not necessarily for running: they are few and not all accurate. Here are two free options for iOS and Android:
Metronome by Musicopoulos.
Metronome – Perfect Tempo and Rhythm
You can use music with your desired tempo (BPM, beats per minute) as your metronome. On GetSongBPM you can check the tempo of your favorite music and find tracks with the right number of beats per minute.
You can choose a fast track, for example with 168 BPM, or a slower one with 84 BPM, but then you will need to take two steps for each beat.
There are also ready-made selections of music with different beats per minute. Just be guided by your target cadence, not the canonical 180 steps per minute.
What to do if you can’t increase your cadence
If increasing your cadence is difficult for you, try special running exercises and techniques.
Running in place with correct technique
Stand up straight, feet shoulder width apart, bark muscles tense, back straight. Start marching in place, gradually speeding up. Arms move close to the body, knees pointing strictly forward, feet are placed under the center of gravity. Quickly run in place for 20 to 30 seconds, then rest and repeat 2 to 4 more times.
Another useful variation of this exercise is running with high knee raises. You need to do the same thing, but raise your knees higher.
This is a series of sprints of 100 meters or 20-30 seconds. Run the stride at a speed close to maximum (95%), trying to move your legs faster and actively work your arms. Rest for 1-2 minutes and repeat several more times.
As a rule, strides are performed after an easy workout. In any case, you should not do them without a warm-up or after a serious load.
After a good warm-up, find a hill with a 4-6 gradient (treadmill). Run up the hill for 20-30 seconds. Try to reposition your feet frequently and maintain proper body position.
The sprint is followed by a recovery period of running downhill or flat and then a short run uphill again. Repeat the exercise for 15 minutes.
Complement your training with these exercises and continue to increase your cadence. Gradually you will be able to increase your speed and decrease the load on your knees.