Running comes naturally to all of us. So, is there any need to learn or relearn to run, refining the many components of this physical exertion — from strides to gait — we picked up during toddlerhood?
Well, you can just wear your running shoes and get going any time you feel like. No sweat there. However, the intricacies of good running form will make a difference in the long term — be it performance or injuries.
For starters, before you hit the track or trail, make sure to activate your running muscles, otherwise you are bound to get muscle cramps or minor injuries. Then comes the training to enhance your running form and technique, followed by other aspects that can push your effort to the next level.
Enter running cadence, which can shave off seconds from your personal best and prevent injuries as well, say experts.
There are several other elements associated with running which also can make your run more fun and pain-free. For instance, just having a clear understanding of whether you were running or jogging can make you focus better on movements like stride length, arm swing and even running speed. And cadence plays an important part in speed as well as defining your run.
What is running cadence?
“Two parameters help improve your running: cadence and stride length,” says Rahul Sharma, running coach and founder of CYRUNS, Ahmedabad.
Cadence is the number of steps taken per minute. You can calculate the cadence of your walking, jogging, running and cycling. It is one measure that can be used to define whether your outing was a walk, jog or a run.
“For a moderate-intensity walking workout, you will have to take at least 100 steps per minute,” says Gagan Arora, running coach and founder of Kosmic Fitness, Delhi. “When you do a brisk walk or a slow jog, the cadence could reach up to 131-135 steps per minute. Cadence for running starts after 135 — where easy-going runners can run at 141-150 cadence and for long-distance runners it’s preferred that they reach up to an ideal cadence of 171-175.”
Importance of measuring running cadence
When you get into a fitness regimen with short- and long-term goals, even minor details like time spent and repetitions done matter. It makes you feel content with the effort you put in and the results you get to see. It’s also about training the body and getting it into a rhythm conducive for a safe workout.
“For professional runners, cadence plays a huge role and they target an ideal cadence of 175-180 while doing distance running,” says Arora. “Suppose they increase even three steps per minute during their long-distance running races, the time taken for the distance to be covered is considerably lower, and this makes a huge difference when it comes to crossing the finish line.”
Sprinters have an even higher cadence.
“For a short-distance sprinter, the cadence is high, as they are expected to cover a short distance quickly,” adds Sharma. “The ideal cadence enables you to utilize the maximum potential of the body. It cannot be too high or too low.”
However, cadence is not the preserve of elite athletes. Even recreational runners are particular about goals and performance and are on the lookout for means to improve various aspects of running, including cadence.
Right cadence reduces risk of injuries
Another upside to watching your cadence, and systematically improving it, is that it reduces the risk of injuries.
“When you run with a lower cadence and extend your legs in front and hit hard with the heel, it breaks the running momentum,” says Arora. “Whereas with a higher running cadence you land under your body with soft knees, which allows you to run with good momentum and keeps you in a more desirable running form. Good running form also helps in reducing overuse injuries.”
Having a high cadence reduces injuries by minimizing the ground contact time (feet on ground) and increasing your flight phase (feet in the air).
“With low cadence, the ground contact time is more and so is the pressure on the body,” explains Sharma. “So, with a higher cadence you run faster and reduce the ground contact time and pressure on the body.”
How to improve your running cadence
Runners can monitor their cadence by using various apps.
“There are many apps which allow you to set the number of steps you want to take per minute and monitor your running cadence,” says Arora. “They beep for each step and you can take the steps accordingly. When you have attained the set cadence, you can increase it gradually and make progress as your body automatically adapts to the rhythm of running by enhancing muscle recruitment and muscle memory.”
GPS-enabled activity trackers can be employed too.
“You can also keep track by counting your steps or using GPS-enabled watches which have a feature to count the cadence monitoring movement of the body,” says Sharma.
Is there a cadence that suits all?
Be it your heart rate or blood pressure, there is an ideal or optimal range. Cadence works the same.
“An ideal running cadence lies between 165 to 180,” says Arora. “It’s not a fixed number and as you improve your cadence you can see which cadence allows you to run comfortably.”
Your physical fitness has a say in your cadence.
“If you are on the heavier side, it’s advisable that you reduce your weight and then work on improving your running cadence,” says Sharma. “Because the less you weigh, the faster you will be — which will help you increase your running cadence.”
- Running cadence is the number of steps you take per minute of your run.
- While the cadence is high for sprinters, marathoners target a cadence of 165-180.
- A higher running cadence makes you less prone to injuries.
- Running cadence can be improved by keeping count of steps using apps and through regular training.