I’ve always been interested in understanding running cadence. Most running books you read will have a section on this topic and most will point towards striving for the magical 180 steps per minute. This has been backed up by well known research on Olympic medal runners. Also intriguing is the idea that it will help you ward off injury, as the increased stride rate will force the runner to shorten his stride, thus avoiding over striding and stepping out in front. At 6ft 2 I have fairly long legs and presumably a fairly long stride length. I believe my tendency is a slow cadence and I’m all too aware this “lazier” action may hold me back, as it could open the door to injury and slow me down generally.
So today for the first time I wore a foot pod and measured my cadence over a 5km effort at Newcastle Parkrun. I’d tried the pod a few times on easy runs and I found that there was no way I could achieve 180 steps per min (spm) on a slower run. I did try but it just felt wrong and, ultimately, to get as high as 178 involved moving out of the easy zone. I would say it did promote a mid to forefoot strike though, helping to avoid over striding and heel striking.
I was since glad to find an article on Kinetic Revolution which actually comforted me in my early findings. Indeed the article stated that for easy runs it would not be expected to achieve more than 84-86 strikes per foot, short of the magical 180. However, they did advocate 180 and higher for threshold runs and faster. Trying the pod on an easy run post reading this article did find that I could comfortably maintain 82-85 spm per foot. Fine, I was in the right ball park.
Results for today though (finish time 18m 36s) –
1st km, 3m 35s pace, av. cadence 178
2nd km, 3m 39s, 174
3rd km, 3m 43s, 172
4th km, 3m 50s, 168
5th km, 3m 39s, 168
80m, 2m 24s, 190 (over distance, sprint finish)
So the above would suggest I have something to work on. I am falling short of the optimum cadence even in the quickest first km and lose turnover speed as tiredness kicks in and my splits slow. So there is a direct relationship between pace and cadence and presumably if I can work on increasing cadence in sessions in training I can translate that to quicker times in races. Obviously this needs to be in conjunction with improved stamina and general fitness.
The interesting thing is the 2nd and 5th kilometres were both completed in 3m 39s but my cadence was 6 steps lower in the 5th, presumably due to tiredness.
As I get fitter I’ll be looking to review this again as and when I run 5k time trials.