How can adjusting your cadence improve your running?
Cadence refers to leg turnover, or how many times in one minute that your feet strike the ground.
Most elite runners have a cadence that’s very close to 180 steps per minute, regardless of their height or finishing position. Most less experienced runners have a cadence that’s closer to 150 to 160 steps per minute.
For non-elite runners, there may be benefits to increasing our cadence to approximately 180 steps per minute.
As a marathoner who treats running injuries and analyzes patients’ running technique, I have noticed that if runners can gradually increase their cadence even slightly toward 180, they seem to have more success and fewer injuries. In part, this is because increasing your cadence reduces the impact on the heel, thus decreasing the risk of injury.
When I suggest to patients who have a low cadence that they try increasing their turnover, even those who find it more difficult and less efficient at first, soon notice an improvement in their speed and a decrease in aches and pains. They typically comment that their running feels smoother and more efficient.
Here are some ways you can adjust your cadence toward 180 steps per minute. To prevent injury, be sure to make the changes gradually over time.
- Find your current cadence by going for a run. For one full minute, count the number of steps you take with your right foot. Multiply by two, and you have your running cadence.
- To increase your stride rate, you need to take faster, lighter and quicker steps. Try to imagine that you are taking baby steps or that there are small dogs biting at your ankles, making you run faster. Run as if you are not allowed to touch the ground (i. e. pick your foot up as soon as it hits the ground).
- Try incorporating some muscle-strengthening plyometric drills — do it carefully and gradually — into your running routine to improve your ability to turn your legs over quicker. That will allow your foot to strike the ground more frequently. Drills will also allow you to increase or maintain your stride length.
Check out relevant drills.
Note: This article written by Dr. Aaron Case appeared in the Vancouver Sun April 26, 20010.