What does cadence mean in running? A complete guide for runners

It’s a crisp, clear morning. You lace up your running shoes, step out the door, and begin your daily run. Each stride you take feels effortlessly rhythmic, almost like a dance. You're in the zone, moving with a kind of grace you can't quite explain. This, dear runner, is cadence in its purest form.

Cadence: A Runner's Symphony

In technical terms, cadence refers to the number of steps a runner takes per minute. It's the tempo of your running symphony, the rhythm that propels you forward. It's a crucial aspect of running mechanics, often overlooked but vital for performance and injury prevention.

Why is Cadence Important?

Imagine running on a treadmill. It's not just about speed, is it? It's also about how efficiently you're moving. That's what cadence impacts.

  • Efficiency: A higher cadence means shorter, quicker steps. This results in less energy wasted in vertical motion, translating to more efficient running.

  • Injury Prevention: A lower cadence often means longer strides, which can lead to overstriding and a higher impact force on each step. This increases the risk of injuries like shin splints or runner's knee.

  • Pacing: By adjusting your cadence, you can control your pace without necessarily changing your effort level. It's a handy tool in a runner's arsenal, especially during races or speed workouts.

So, How Can You Improve Your Cadence?

Now that we've established the importance of cadence, you might be thinking, "Great, but how do I work on it?" Here are some practical steps:

  1. Measure Your Current Cadence: You can't improve what you can't measure. Use a running app or a running watch to find your current cadence. Alternatively, you can do it the old-fashioned way—count your steps for a minute while running at a comfortable pace.

  2. Set a Goal: The oft-quoted ideal cadence is 180 steps per minute. But remember, this is not a one-size-fits-all number. Start with a goal of increasing your current cadence by 5-10%.

  3. Use a Metronome: Yes, the same tool that musicians use! Set the beats per minute to your desired cadence, and try to match your steps to the beats. There are plenty of metronome apps available for your phone.

  4. Cadence Drills: High-knee running, butt kicks, and skipping are just a few examples of drills that can help increase your cadence.

  5. Gradual Increase: Don't rush it. Gradually increase your cadence over weeks and months. Your body needs time to adapt to the new rhythm.

Cadence and You: A Unique Rhythm

Remember that cadence is a highly individual aspect of running. What works for one runner might not work for another. It's about finding the rhythm that feels most natural and efficient for you.

So, next time you lace up your running shoes, pay a little more attention to your steps. Feel the rhythm, embrace the dance, and let your cadence guide you to running bliss.