How to improve running cadence – Why is cadence important?

I’ve been running for just over a year. So now, instead of being that guy who occasionally goes for a jog after work, you could probably call me an actual runner. I’ve read several running books and countless articles online and one particular subject that caught my eye is running cadence. What is running cadence? Good question… I’m glad that you asked. The simplest way to explain cadence is “how many times your foot strikes the ground within a given time period” usually this time period is one minute.

How do you calculate running cadence. Well…. That’s simple. Count how many times your left foot strikes the ground in 60 seconds and multiply by 2 to factor in that you also have another foot. You can also use running watches that offer cadence calculations over your entire run. Word of advice for Garmin users the cadence is calculated only if you purchase the foot pod accessory and also has to be multiplied by 2. I do own a Garmin and I have to admit that it is the cat’s meow. I use it for almost every run, I’m also a bit of a statistic geek. To give you an idea of calculated cadence, I have attached a screen shot of my last run. You can see below that the faster my cadence the faster I was able to run. You can also see that I still have lot’s of room for improvement.

The average cadence for elite runners is around 180-190. This is for the marathon distance all the way down to 800M. If you focus on shorter faster strides your running will become more efficient. This may take awhile to get the hang of, as taking small fast steps seems a little awkward at first but after practice this will start to feel more natural.

During my last run I observed a young runner kicking his feet way up in the air and taking extra long strides. I wanted to say something but I decided that it was probably for the better that I didn’t. From a distance this type of running looks good and almost makes the runner appear to be going faster. In reality this type of running leads to sloppy form and possible injury. When you are running, the goal is to move forward not vertically. With a long stride or low cadence you spend more of your effort moving vertically. This effort should be being used to propel you forward.

Some people choose to listen to music as a way to help improve cadence. These songs usualy have a specific BPM (Beats per minute) between 160-180 BPM. The higher BPM helps to keep your stride in check. There are several websites that list songs that have high a BPM.

Here is a sample from runningmusicmix.com.

Helena Beat / Foster the People / 128 bpm (walking warmup)
Different / Ximena Sariñana / 175 bpm
Bang Bang / K’naan & Adam Levine / 181 bpm
The Lazy Song / Doo-Wops & Hooligans / 174 bpm
Waiting for the End / Linkin Park / 170 bpm
Heart In Your Heartbreak / The Pains of Being Pure At Heart / 158 bpm
Right Above It / Lil Wayne & Drake / 152 bpm
Pretty Girl Rock / Keri Hilson / 161 bpm
Stand By Me (Belfast 79) / PacoVolume / 162 bpm
The Show Goes / Lupe Fiasco / 144 bpm
Sydney (I’ll Come Running) / Brett Dennen / 165 bpm
Dog Days Are Over / Florence + The Machine / 151 bpm
Somewhere Over the Rainbow / Israel Kamakawiwo’ole / 170 bpm
What Goes Around…/…Comes Around Interlude / Justin Timberlake / 152 bpm
Hey Jealousy / Gin Blossoms / 154 bpm
Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked / Cage the Elephant / 160 bpm
The Middle / Jimmy Eat World / 163 bpm
The Boys of Summer / Don Henley / 178 bpm
Valerie / The Zutons / 168 bpm
What Part of Forever / Cee Lo Green / 146 bpm
Black (feat. Norah Jones) / Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi / 170 bpm
How Far We’ve Come / Matchbox Twenty / 167 bpm
Before It Explodes / Charice / 154 bpm
Heart Skips a Beat / Lenka / 162 bpm

Calculate your cadence and set a goal to improve. If your cadence is 150 then for your next run shoot for 155 and so on. Ultimately, with improved cadence comes increased speed and better form. Which leads to less injury. I’m sure that at the begining of my running career, low cadence was a factor in a few unnecessary aches and pains.

Author: The Money Runner

Husband, father, runner, personal finance enthusiast and computer geek. Thanks for visiting. Please check out my other posts and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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