Saturday, January 26, 2013


Supposedly, the most efficient way to run is with a quick stride.  Specifically, 180 steps per minute is the "magic number".  (Or 90 steps if you only count one leg).  Changing your stride to match this pattern is one way that the "experts" recommend to reduce your injury risk.  It is pretty much a necessity for anyone in the barefoot/minimalist movement (which I am not).

I have known this little fact for a couple years now, and when I first heard it I went out and counted my steps and came up pretty close to 180.  Maybe 176 or something.  So I figured I had this down naturally and kind of forgot about it.  At my group runs recently though, I've noticed my stride is usually quite a bit slower and longer than the people I'm running with, so I realized it's time to reexamine.

In this past year, I got a footpod for my Garmin, and it makes it much easier to track your cadence, since it logs the data automatically -- you don't have to count steps and stare at your watch.  I don't always wear my footpod; pretty much only when I'm on the treadmill or indoor track.  I've been hitting the treadmill fairly regularly recently, though.  It's not that I don't like to run in the cold-- I do--  it's just that I've developed a television addiction and running on the mill lets me kill a 1 hr workout and a 1 hr TV show in the same hour, versus spending 2 hrs.  That, and the fact that I have a lot of prescribed paces and speed work that I'm trying to do, and it's much easier to do when I can just set the pace and forget it, vs trying to hit those paces outside in the dark on slippery roads.  I tend to "run hot", so I much prefer the winter temps to the summer temps, but I do hate treacherous footing.  At 20 degrees I wear just 2 long sleeved tech shirts (the thin free kind from races, not the thick expensive type), unless it's windy, then I add a light wind-breaking jacket.  I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've gone out in a thick or fleecy top, and it's pretty much always been when it's below zero.

I don't know how I got on that winter apparel detour.  This was supposed to be about cadence.  Sorry.  Back on track:

Here is the data from my footpod from my run after work Wednesday morning.  Green is cadence (scale on the right), and blue is pace (scale on the left).
Each mile repeat got faster, see that?  Yay.  Although, my workout called for 3 to 5 x 1600, and clearly I opted for the low end of that.  Oh well.  (The entire workout is 10-15 min warmup, 3 to 5 x 1600m w/ 800m recovery jogs, plus 3x200m w/ 200m jogs, then 10-15 min cooldown.)  

Yikes.  The worst part about that plot is that your cadence is supposed to STAY THE SAME at 180 (or 90), regardless of your pace.  Mine very clearly varies with pace! The only time I reached the "proper" cadence of 90 was when I was on my 200m intervals.  I was sorta close at about 85 on my 1600m intervals, and NOWHERE close on my recovery jogs, looks like maybe 75.  At my long runs recently I have tried to quicken my step but it seems to always slow me down.  I am feeling pretty good right now, and don't really want to "rock the boat" my reinventing my stride at the peak of my Rock CF half training, but this is something I may address after it's over.

I'm excited for that race to be over.  I'm ready to get off such a regimented training plan.  I'm going to start going to the Ann Arbor Track Club for their Tuesday night track workouts instead of following my own speed work plan.  I am a paid member of the club, but have only been maybe two or three times.  I think I'll also resume attendance at the Thursday evening 501 group runs, and treat that as a faster paced tempo run, but without any hard and fast pace goals ("hard and fast" meaning strict, that is.  "Hard" and "fast" are fine! ).  Saturday mornings will stay on as group long run.  Spinning will move to Wednesdays I think, which means my Wednesday run with the A2Runners Meetup group will have to be dropped.  The remaining 3 days will be 1 easy run and 2 workout videos.  Done and done.  I guess I'll be wearing more of my footpod when those days roll around, so I can work on improving my stride rate.  Not really looking forward to that part, honestly, but if it keeps me injury free, then so be it.

1 comment:

  1. If you've been running injury free, I'd say don't change anything! As for reducing injury risk, I think one of the more important things is focusing on not over-striding - you want to make sure that your foot lands on the ground underneath your body. That's the way I understand things at least. Anyway, don't fix what isn't broken :).

    As an aside, I have no idea what my cadence is but I feel like mine probably also varies like yours does between slow/average/fast paces.


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