I was out running with a few friends last week and one of them said: 'I get scared when I hear your snappy stride coming up behind me'.
What he was referring to was my cadence, the number of strides per minute that each foot takes. To minimise over-striding, lessen impact on the legs and maintain momentum, runners should aspire to keep a high cadence. The optimal cadence falls between 85-90 strides per minute or 180 steps if counting on both feet.
One thing I have noticed over the years while conducting the ChiRunning workshops is that runners with poor running form have a slow cadence. The reason for this is that all of the elements of poor running form, such as over-striding, which results in a heel strike, makes it very difficult to maintain a brisk cadence. Some running watches also display cadence.
Just start by measuring your current cadence. Match the beep of the metronome to beep faster or slower until it's a perfect match to your stride. Say, for instance, if you are currently running at a cadence of only 75. Set your metronome to beep at this rate. For four runs get used to practising matching your cadence to the beat of the metronome with each step. Increase your cadence by one beat per minute after every four runs. When you build up to a cadence of 85 strides per minute, stay at that for a couple of weeks. If you feel you would like to increase this to 90 beats per minute, resume by increasing by one stride per minute.
I would say that cadence is one of the most important aspects of good running. You have to train your brain and muscles to fire as rapidly as you need them to. From here on, when you are training, imagine you are running on hot coals and think of short, snappy steps.
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