What is all this talk about cadence for runners?

What is all this talk about cadence for runners?

When Usain Bolt runs the 100m sprint, he runs it in about nine seconds. Of those nine seconds, he’s on the ground for about two seconds, which means he’s practically flying. But, how? The man has no wings, he isn’t super human, although some say he probably is, and he isn’t a bird!

Usain Bolt is the fastest man on earth, because he can produce huge amounts of force, extremely quickly when he’s on the ground for that split millisecond.

Now I get it.. most of us aren’t sprinters and nowhere near the athletiscm of Usain Bolt, so how does this relate to you!

Well, it doesn’t matter if you’re a sprinter, middle distance or a long distance recreational runner,  the time you spend on the ground when you run matters! So how does this relate to cadence? Is it just a buzz word?

Cadence put simply is the number of steps a runner takes per minute (step per minute). It’s the most common metric used to measure running form and remains important for several reasons.

Cadence can give us important information about what is likely occurring to out bodies when we run. Often when our cadence is low (we are taking less steps) we find ourselves spending more time on the ground and more often than not we find ourselves in what we call an over stride pattern. As much as it can feel more economic and ‘easier’ to run like this, in actual fact what is happening is we are slowing ourselves down with every step, creating a need to absorb and express more force and energy and ultimately asking a lot more of our muscles and joints. Now this is fine for most and many get away with it until they don’t!

Most of the time when issues arise whether that be from injury or performance, its because of the fact that more time is being spent on the ground, the body doesn’t have the required strength to cope with this and/or we have seen a sudden increase in the amount of running that someone is doing.

So what can you do about it? Get a metronome and ensure you have an increased cadence with an aim of 180 steps per minute? This number was tied to the analysis of Olympic sprinters in the 80’s so it is better to think of cadence as being not one size fits all.

I have personally tried using a metronome and quite frankly it made me hate running. What I have found works best is go by feel with your body and intermittently focus on taking more or spending less time on the ground whilst you run. Think about it and then forget about it! Over time you will find this gradually adjusts how you run and you can even quantify this if you use a watch or phone app whilst running like Strava.

In addition, don’t neglect the importance of your strength! The cause and effect relationship of changing your running dictates that we may end up shifting forces onto muscles and joints that wouldn’t normally experience these forces. Strength and in particular strength at speeds is important and is best aided by working with a running experienced health practitioner, strength coach or running coach.

At Stride, we have helped hundreds of patients overcome recurring running related injuries just through the use of strength training and by applying subtle changes to their running technique. If you need help with your running, whether it be injury rehabilitation, programming or strength training, don’t wait! Click here to book an appointment to see one of our trusted professionals!




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