I recently had a run gait analysis done (complete review coming soon) and it wasn’t pretty! I have had some lower leg injuries and pain throughout the last year and wanted to find out if there was something I could change to avoid this in the future. For starters, my cadence is too slow and my stride is too long. What does this mean exactly? What can one do about it?
Cadence is defined as the number of times your foot strikes the ground per minute. It is largely accepted in the “running community” that a number to aim for is 180 spm (steps per min). My cadence was measured at 160 spm. Hmmm.. What does this tell me? I am creating more vertical power than forward movement and wasting a lot of energy. I have a fairly inefficient cadence which leads to the next issue, Stride length.
Not only is running with a slow cadence inefficient, but can lead to a stride length that is too long. It also often leads to “heel striking” which leads to lower leg injuries! Aha! Makes sense but what to do about it?
The easiest way to work on your cadence is to run with a metronome. You may recall them from piano lessons as a child, yep same thing. A metronome will keep time for you and assist to you run at a certain cadence. The easiest way to use one is to download an app onto your phone. There are many free versions available.
I got this one which allows me to set the timer for 1,2, 3 or 5 minutes.
My PT recommended that I start out with a 3 minute interval. Hearing the ticking in your ear for anymore time that that can probably drive someone insane! It certainly takes some getting used to for sure. I’ve been playing around with the number and have set it between 170-175. I am doing intervals of 3 minutes on and about 5 minutes off. Even when the beeping stopped, I could almost still hear it in my head. I am not expecting to be able to change this in just a few runs. I know this could take months or years to really change. I do hope that even a small change might help me run more efficiently, land underneath my body more and shorten my stride. All of this should, in theory, help with my lower leg injuries.
How to check your cadence:
-On a treadmill warm up for a few minutes and find your comfortable speed. Count your steps for 30 second and x 2. That will give you your average cadence.
How to increase your cadence:
-Start by running with a metronome to demonstrate what running at a quicker cadence feels like
-It is recommended to add about 5% to the rate at a time. For example, if my stride is 160 spm I would start with 168 on the metronome until feeling comfortable.
-There are also a number of apps that will find songs or speed up your songs to the cadence that you are looking to achieve. Jog tunes and Rock my run are two of many that may help.
Why is this important?
For newer runners or those who have frequent injuries, working on stride and cadence can help decrease the stress you put on your body while running.
For more seasoned runners, working on stride and cadence can help to increase your speed.
Stride length X cadence = speed
For more info on running with a metronome check out this page from Chi Running http://www.chirunning.com/blog/entry/learn-to-love-your-metronome
It’s too soon for me to tell yet whether I’ve made any improvements in my cadence. It is a very different feeling for me to run this way and it takes a lot of concentration. So far, I am feeling that my shins are not as sore post run. More to come on what else I learned from my run analysis.
Have you ever run with a metronome? Any advice for me?