A fairly simple way to improve your running form and efficiency is to work on your cadence. Running cadence, or stride rate, is the number of steps you take per minute when running. Most elite runners’ cadence is around 180 steps per minute. That may be a high number for us mortals, but it sets a good benchmark for what we can aim for. A faster foot turnover forces a shorter stride, keeping your body mass over your feet as opposed to a longer stride that has you over reaching with your feet and causing a heel strike as opposed to mid-to-forefoot strike. With a slower cadence, you are wasting energy by bounding vertically instead of using your energy to move horizontally.
Why did I pick this drill this week? It has been something I have been focusing on these past few weeks as we approach Boston. Looking at the cadence graphs in my running data, I have noticed my stride rate has been slower. I am not sure why, other than I really have not focused on it like I should. I do have an advantage at Boston though since I will be running with the speedy “Metronome Mario” Zuniga. He has a high cadence and I can fall in step, or as close as I can, to his cadence.
How to determine your current cadence
If your running watch or phone does not record cadence along with your mileage, you can figure it out simply on the fly while running. Once you reach a comfortable pace, start counting the number of times your right foot hits the ground in one minute. Then multiply that number by two. That is your cadence. Do this several times over the course of your runs to see what your average is.
How to improve your cadence
Do your normal warmup before running and then find a nice flat area that will allow you to run at a steady pace for at least a minute. Run at a comfortable pace for one minute, counting the number of times your right foot hits the ground. Multiply that by two. Remember that number. Do a short easy run to relax before going for another minute run, this time try and increase that number of strides by a few. Repeat this until it is not a comfortable pace anymore.
If you do this drill several times during your weekly training, you will see your cadence and comfort level at a higher cadence increase.
Sometimes music can help increase your cadence as you tend to match your footsteps to the beat. Also falling into rhythm with your running buddy can help as well.