Thursday, July 7, 2011

180, the magic cadence number?

I recently got a consult about my running form and one of the suggestions was to amp up my turnover (cadence, footstrikes) from somewhere in the 160's to the 180's. Generally, in the 160's I am landing with my leg too far in front and therefore too extended and too far back on my heel. Luckily, this has not resulted in any debilitating injuries over the past few years.

Switching to a cadence over 180 foostrikes per minute then, was the suggestion for a variety of reasons, and one that I could also find suggested at seemingly reputable websites (Running Times, Ask the Coach, Coach Jim). Primarily the goal is to force a shorter stride and therefore more mid/fore foot striking and landing on a bent knee forcing the muscles to absorb impact as opposed to joint surfaces in the knee and foot. Of course, one of the other reasons is that all the cool kids (ie: elite Kenyans) are doing it and they all run over 180 or even into the 200's during races.

So I've been out there trying to run 180 and it certainly is forcing some changes to my form. I am not sure how I feel about it though. I do notice the bent knee landing and if I really focus I can turnover without feeling like my trunk is moving up and down at all. Clearly that has the potential to improve my running economy for the long haul, but I am finding it quite challenging to accommodate different paces.

Steve at the Science of Running points out that pace is determined basically by two things, cadence and stride length. If you "fix" one, the other is the only option for changing your pace. So, if I want to slow down a little, I have to shorten my stride, but it already feels exceedingly short just to hit the 180 goal.

At this point, I am not officially training for anything, so I am going to keep at it and see how I adjust.


  1. In transitioning to a more rapid cadence (a transition I've been successful at via following the guidelines of the excellent "Evolution Running" DVD) I found two elements to be pivotal: 1) Attempt no more than a two to three step per minute increase per week (thus leading me to a nearly two month transition, since I was moving from my default 165 to a 180 step/minute cadence); 2) To help ingrain the ever more slightly paced running cadence it's helpful to either listen to an electronic clip-on metronome (as several of my friends preferred) or to listen to the excellent free Podrunner musical podcast (my preference, as I find my legs automatically syncopate to the beat provided on Steve Boyette's musical creations, and he's published numerous excellent tracks from 160 - 180 bpm). Also, bookmark the excellent runblogger blog, as Pete Larson writes eloquently and frequently on the core topic of successfully transitioning towards a mid foot landing.