Ironman.com came out with a new article a couple weeks ago regarding running cadence. Although I’ve been running for a few years now, I’ve never paid attention to how many times a minute my feet hit the pavement. I wasn’t even really aware that it was that important. I know that cycling cadence is important – it seems to be stressed quite frequently – so I have been actively watching my cadence ever since I got my bike computer. I try to always keep it above 90 rpms. The Ironman.com article expresses the importance of run cadence and points out that elite athletes have a stride rate over 200/minute. The recommended stride rate for the average athlete is at least 180/minute.
The Importance of a High Stride Rate
According to the article on Ironman.com, “Stride rate is of particular importance because it’s indicative of one’s overall running form. Athletes with ‘loping’ running styles tend to have a lower foot strike frequency, taking longer strides and tend to get more ‘air’ (bounding) between each foot strike, meaning more energy is going vertically as opposed to horizontally.” Basically, you’re wasting energy if you aren’t moving your legs fast enough. When it comes to a marathon, where I’m running for about 4 hours, it’s pretty important to be conserving energy.
According to an article on Active.com, stride length can help keep you going stronger, faster, and better protected from many common injuries. Basically you will last longer in a race AND be less likely to get injured if you can get your stride up to 180/minute.
My Stride Rate Experiment
During my lunchtime run the day that I read the article, I decided to count my strides for 30 seconds to see what mine was. Having already forgotten what the recommended stride rate was, I knew that my counting wouldn’t be skewed by my previous knowledge. The first time I counted I was only about 1/2 mile into my run and was still warming up. I counted 72 foot strikes in 30 seconds, or 144 per minute. The second time, I decided to speed it up a little bit. I came to somewhere in the low 80s. When I approached a steep hill on my route I counted again and ended up in the mid 80s. I counted yet again during an uphill portion of the run and was in the high 70s. Basically, I’m nowhere near where I should be!
How to Improve your Turnover
There are a few ways to improve your turnover, according to Runner’s World. The first is to move your arms faster – your arms lead your legs, so if you pump them faster, your legs will naturally move faster. They also recommend that you focus on gliding rather than bouncing over the ground by taking quick, light steps. However, resist the temptation to increase your pace while you work on increasing stride. You should be able to have the same stride rate during a marathon and a 5k.
For the last couple of weeks I have been working on improving my stride with the tips above. The first time I could really tell a difference was on my 10 mile run on Christmas Eve. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had a great run that day and was able to maintain an average pace of 8:45 very easily. I really think that part of it had to do with the fact that I was taking smaller, quicker strides and using my energy to move me forward rather than up. Then, that following Tuesday night I did my Yasso 800s on an outdoor track and easily accomplished by sub-3:50 targeted intervals. When I take smaller, quicker steps I can feel myself moving forward more rather than up. It’s really hard to explain how it feels, but I think that I’m on to something! Hopefully with some practice I can get 180 strides per minute to be my natural gait.
Have you ever counted your strides? Do you naturally have a high or low cadence? Have you ever worked to improve your stride and succeeded? Advice appreciated!