It’s Metric Monday time again!
In this series, we take an in-depth look at a range of metrics which impact your running and one by one, detail their importance, what they mean, and how understanding and working to improve on each metric can help you in your running performance.
By understanding and working on these metrics for those crucial, performance-boosting marginal gains, you can improve on the key aspects of your form and technique and become a consistently better runner.
This week, we’re stepping it up as we hone in on your cadence.
You won’t be surprised to hear that your cadence has a big impact on your running performance – it’s in our Metric Monday series after all!
Your cadence is key metric when it comes to understanding and improving upon basic aspects of your running, like your overall time, distance and the speed of your runs.
So just what is cadence? Your cadence is the number of steps you take per minute when running.
This will vary depending on the type of experience you have as a runner, with beginners often having a lower cadence, whereas more professional runners are likely to have a higher number.
The number of steps in your cadence will influence a host of different aspects of your running, from your ground contact time, overall speed, and foot-strike.
As such, your cadence is regarded as one of the main benchmarks in running, and one that, if trained correctly, can help you boost those marginal gains. It’s a simple and effective way of measuring your performance alongside aspects like your heart rate, your distance, and speed.
Why cadence is important
The higher your cadence is, the less time your foot is in contact with the ground, which means there is less pressure placed on your joints and muscles – similar to your ground contact time (which we wrote about last week – read that piece here).
When increasing your cadence you will notice an increase in effort on your cardiovascular system (that’s your heart rate and breathing), mainly as you’re putting more into your running by doing so.
Your legs, however, will feel a slight decrease in fatigue — which is important when it comes to managing your energy, especially over longer distances.
Cadence is also a major factor in your run speed and your stride length. That’s because your cadence has a big influence on determining how fast you move, which of course, in turn, affects your best time and your overall distance.
But what is important to remember is that your cadence is personal to you and you alone. It’s determined by a number of factors that are specific to you and your running attributes, form and more.
In particular, your cadence will depend on your ability, anatomy, and your running and training history.
With cadences being so dependent on the individual in question, its important to recognise and understand your own performance in order to train it.
Specifically, if you’re quite tall, you will have a naturally lower cadence than someone smaller than you, and that’s natural — as you wouldn’t need to take as many strides as someone with smaller legs for example.
What does the science say?
Recent research has opened up the discussion around cadence, and in particular, whether or not the decade-old belief that to have impeccable form, a runner must have a cadence of 180 steps per minute.
This has long been believed to be the best form that elite level runners should aim for, although this has been contested by various studies.
Typically, runners should be aiming for anything between 160 and 190 steps per minute to be considered a good cadence. As the form rulebook goes, 180 is often touted as the best aim for runners to work towards, however, your cadence will vary at different speeds.
As you begin to increase your cadence, you will likely find a number that works better for your natural gait by testing out what feels right for you in your performance, rather than a set number.
Can I improve my cadence?
Increasing your cadence doesn’t necessarily equate to becoming a better runner.
Your cadence is something that will change and improve over time by working on other aspects of your running.
Aiming to improve on your speed and strength will determine your cadence number more than just trying to hit a higher count, with the improvement coming naturally.
As you become stronger and faster — and find your optimal cadence and stride length — you will be able to run at the same speed with less effort. When you improve your stamina, you will be able to keep up that pace and your optimal cadence and stride length for longer.
A good place to start? Keep track of how many steps you take per minute and work on increasing/decreasing them to fit your running style and better your overall performance.