What is it?
Your cadence is the beat of your feet when you run or in other words the rhythm of your running. You can either count it as how many times one foot strikes the ground over one minute or you can count both feet.
Why do I care?
Although it can take some time and feel very awkward at first to change your cadence, this is possibly the most significant way you will improve your speed, endurance, recovery period and effort level without significant change in your fitness or strength. For someone who has plateaued in their running this can be the answer – with patience over several months, I have seen marathon runners who can’t break 4hours across multiple courses drop to sub 3hours simply by adding a cadence focus to their training.
How do I measure it?
To measure you can count how many times your foot strikes in one minute or if you lose count easily, try easing into your stride then counting strikes for 15s and times the result by 4. Take a rest for a few minutes and repeat and/or mix it up by measuring 15s, 30s and one minute.
What is a good cadence?
Noting that everyone has a different body, the “optimum” cadence will vary slightly between runners but in general it sits around 85-90 strikes (beats) per minute for single count (i.e. 170-180bpm when counting both feet) and will also vary when on grass vs road vs trails and flat vs undulating vs hills.
Slow Vs Fast
|Flight time||Longer||Shorter||Very short|
|Impact – Knee||Heavy||Lighter||Lighter but more often|
|Energy usage||High HR & Vo2||Lower HR & Vo2||Mod to High HR & VO2|
How do I change?
There are so many different ways to tackle this including addressing body position and stride length adjustments to shoe quality and type and a whole pile of technical stuff but my personal most successful way to change is to “Rock Out!” – Your body will naturally adjust when you don’t over think it.
So from a safety point of view running with headphones is super dangerous but the good news is that you don’t have to have headphones on to enjoy your music. Have you ever been out on a run and gone past someone rocking out to beats you can hear and as they head away you find yourself adjusting to the song? You may just smile/giggle and feel better, you may pick up or slow down your pace to the beat or you may just enjoy the brief distraction but the result is the same – you feel good, breathe a bit better and then hit the wall as you try to settle back in and wish you had some beats. Embrace this simple thing. Unplug, play your music and let it help your mind relax while also making others smile. You may even end up with people sticking near enough to enjoy your music and then you make new friends!
The other way to do this is to download a metronome app and set it to the speed you want to achieve. This may be a better approach if you are a runner with the need to make a significant change i.e if you run around 70bpm or 100bpm, adjust the metronome by 2-4 beats difference every couple of weeks (yes, this does take time but it is totally worth it).
What beats to use.
There are again many ways to approach this. Once you know your cadence number you can either google the BPM of songs you like and put together a play list a couple of beats faster or slower (depending on how you need to adjust) OR you can just skip to the magic numbers and find running/RPM class tracks that are a certain beat – there are LOADS of them out there specifically designed to invoke a rhythm for your physical movement.
If you have Spotify, this is possibly the EASIEST way to find tracks. You can use spotify to detect your cadence or you can adjust it to the tempo you want and then it will provide music to that pace. This works for the free and premium versions but only on the mobile app.
Who can help me with this?
Well if you live in Canberra Australia you are in serious luck – we have a run coaching program for the ordinary person at Pure Will Running. There are sessions and times all over town, so get in touch and come get some advice. We’re all experienced runners and have collective knowledge on track, distance and trail running. Otherwise google run coaching and the name of your town – you will find someone. In Australia another great coached program with a feel good aspect is Can Too – I coach for them too and highly recommend their programs.