The Secret to Running Fast? Cadence!

Road Runner

Meep! Meep!

Cadence, also known as gait or turnover, is a key factor in running speed that is often overlooked by many runners.  So what exactly is cadence all about?

“Cadence in sports involving running is the total number of ‘revolutions per minute’ (RPM), or number of full cycles taken within a minute, by the pair of feet, and is used as a measure of athletic performance.  Elite long-distance runners often have a cadence of 90–95, a cadence that does not vary much with speed.” – Wikipedia

The idea is pretty simple:  take shorter, quicker steps and your speed will improve.  ;-)   Not only is it simple to understand and implement, but running with a faster cadence also achieves the following:

  • Improved speed
  • Less impact and fewer injuries
  • Improved momentum due to more time in the air

When first getting interested in cadence I read that maintaining a minimum cadence of 90 RPMs is a good goal.  So I started running with a 90 BPM (beats per minute) MP3 from this site.  You can match either your feet landing or elbow swing to the beat.  Basically I would ensure that every other elbow swing was all the way back on the “click”.  If you want to match up with every elbow swing, download the 180 BMP MP3.  It can get pretty annoying listening to a metronome through earphones (especially on long runs) so I eventually switched over to the Seiko DM50 Compact Metronome.

That’s really all there is to it.  Download an MP3 or buy a metronome and get out there!  After a weeks of running to that beat, it will become second nature and you will be a faster runner!

As a side note:  since I started wearing Vibram Five Fingers, I was really curious what my difference in cadence is between those and my Nike Vomeros.  So I strapped my Garmin Foot Pod onto my Vibrams and went for a 4 mile run.  Wow!  I had an average cadence of 99, as opposed to ~90 with my Nikes.  As you can see, my pace is dramatically improved due to the faster cadence.  :-)   This most likely can be attributed to the lightness of the Vibrams as well as the shorter strides they force you to take.

To sum it all up… increasing your running cadence is a pretty straight forward to improve your overall pace.  I’d to hear every one’s opinion on this :-)

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16 Responses to The Secret to Running Fast? Cadence!

  1. Lisa says:

    I think keeping this technique in mind last night really helped my run incredibley! It felt great and my effort level felt very minimal which is a good sign, right?

  2. jsoldo says:

    Correct ;-) Feeling good while running with less effort is the ultimate goal!

  3. Walter says:

    I used the DM50 in my training; and competitive runs (1oKm). I am wondering if the beep sound will offend or distract other runners although I had its sound volume set to minimum. And I am just too timid to ask the other runners…. any feedback?

    • jsoldo says:

      Hey Walter! Welcome to RunningDummy! My experience has been that most people are interested in why you are running with tiny beeping device. If you tell them it makes you faster with less effort, they will not stop asking you about it! So I wouldnt worry too much about it. But if you really dont want to offend anyone, you could always download the mp3′s I talked about and run with headphones. :-)

      • jsoldo says:

        Also, I wouldnt worry about being “timid” around runners. They are the nicest and most curious sporting community I have ever encountered! It takes an odd bunch to dress up in bright tight clothes and then pee in the woods right before a road race! ;-P

  4. Walter says:

    Hi jsoldo.
    It is reassuring to hear that! I think I will continue to use the DM50 until someone stops me … I will be using it at our forth coming Marathon this December, 5. I am taking part in the half-marathon segment. Thanks for the reply!

    • jsoldo says:

      That’s the spirit. Im sure no one will give you any problems. If I have to deal with people unwashed / smelly clothes… they can deal with some beeping :-)

      Good luck at the 1/2 marathon! Will this be your first?

      • Walter says:

        Yes. My first time. My latest trial run was 18Km , a few days ago … still a long way to hit the 21.1Km. That means I have about a month of play time. I will look into the heart-rate thing as suggested. Hope it is not too technical for me …. I am also looking into the breathing issue as I don’t seem to “catch” it yet. I read a few thing about having a 3/2 kind of breathing rate; but mine gets lost after a about 20m or so …. I will be 51 next month. Am I rushing thing too fast?

  5. Walter says:

    and YES, using metronome has definitely helped improved my timing. I never knew how easily I fell into “slow mode” until I started using the metronome. Now, my running consistent and I felt great ….

  6. Ashton says:

    Ha this was an interesting article. After I read it I went outside and decided to count my cadence. The first time i was only taking about 160 steps per minute, which probably explained all the knee pain. After a few tries I was able to get my cadence up to 180 spm, and i am improving it steadily, hoping to make it to 200. Also my knee injuries and most of my ankle problems are cured. Thank you!

  7. Walter says:

    Here is the result of using the metronome to maintain my cadence. Setting it to 90 allowed me to complete the Dec 1/2 marathon at 2hrs 18mins. I think that was the fastest a 51yr old chap like me ever run. :)

  8. runnahoo says:

    Hi!

    You should try the app “runnahoo – Running metronome”. It is available for Android devices. It is simple but powerful, and it is free! You can download it at Google Play https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.runnahoo&hl=es

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