At its core, running is about repetitive movement; provided you put one foot in front of the other repeatedly, and generally propel yourself in a forward motion, you run. You are a runner. However, it can be a bit misleading to think that putting “one foot in front of the other” is where running begins and ends. How you take those steps, and more importantly, how many steps you take, can dictate a lot about your success as a runner, from your speed all the way up to your propensity for injury. In running parlance, a runner's cadence refers to the number of steps or strides the runner takes over a given period of time, usually measured in steps or strides per minute. Understanding the importance of your cadence can help pave the way to you being able to put in mile after mile, year after year, for the long haul. When you begin researching more about cadence, you'll likely find the number 180. This value refers to the number of steps per minute most runners should aim to take, and this belief is so strongly held in the running community that it's something that has become passed down, from generation to generation, without question. The idea here is that as long as runners take 180 steps per minute, they will be far less likely to overstride and that by not overstriding, runners will reduce their injury likelihood (particularly for shin splints) and will thus be able to run injury-free. The magic 180 value dates back to the 1984 Olympics and a study that iconic running coach Jack Daniels conducted. In his study, Daniels noticed that of his small sample size (46), only one elite runner had a cadence with a value of lower than 180 spm. Since this original study, Daniels' research has been misinterpreted and misquoted, propelling the belief that 180 should be the magic number for all runners. While there isn't necessarily a hard-and-fast magic number that all runners should strive to hit in their cadences, more likely than not, most runners could benefit from upping their cadence. More recent research, post-Daniels, show that cadences that are 160 spm or lower typically indicate that the runners are overstriding and thus are increasing their propensity for common runner maladies like shin splints. Many of us probably don't think much about how many steps we take when we run, but once you become cognizant of your cadence, you can make some improvements to get your value higher and have a higher turnover. Here are some ideas about how you can up your cadence:
How many steps we take in each minute of running can dictate our ability to continue to run injury-free, so while running is a fairly straightforward activity – one step in front of the other, over and over again – it'll behoove us as runners to learn more about, and monitor, our cadence over time.
Bio: Dan Chabert Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com and he has been featured on runnerblogs all over the world.