The Perfect Beat
Stride rate or cadence is a critical element to running correctly. This is something that all runners should learn early on in their endeavors. How often should my feet hit the ground?
To many, the answer to this question is: it depends on how fast you're going. This is the wrong answer.
The correct answer is: 180 or more steps per minute. This means that you take 90 or more steps with each foot, per minute.
How can this be possible? If you keep your stride rate even, another variable must change -- in this case your stride length. The faster you go, the longer your stride becomes with little to no change in leg turnover.
I find that very few (sometimes none out of a class of 25 or 30) take as many as 180 steps per minute. In fact, some turn over as slowly as 160 steps per minute. The main disadvantage of this slower turnover is that the slower you take steps, the longer you spend in the air, and the longer you're in the air, the higher you displace your body mass and the harder you hit the ground on landing. When you consider that many running injuries are the result of landing shock, it's not surprising that experienced runners tend to turn over faster than beginning runners do.
That tidbit right there should be enough to convince you that the single biggest improvement you can make to your running form is to ensure you're getting enough steps per minute.
Imagine what the increased landing shock would do to your barefeet, or minimally protected feet. Imagine all of that shock landing on your heel!
The easiest way to count your stride is to count every single sided footfall for 60 seconds. When you have that number, multiply by two. Experiment with what it feels like to turn over more quickly, but keep the same pace. Then experiment with what it feels like to turn over as quickly, but lengthen your stride, increasing your pace.
It may help to keep your body in rhythm -- there are many folks who enjoy running to music. Many songs can be utilized to keep your cadence.
Some musical ideas are:
- HellaSound - 30 minute custom bpm tracks. 4 to choose from as of now, each a different musical style. I have 3 of these at 180 bpm and find them wonderful for longer runs.
- A discussion on popular music tracks on the dailymile.
- A simple mp3 of a metronome, at 180 bpm.
- You can buy a "running" metronome.