The truth about your run cadence
There is a lot to unpack here. I get that question from athletes a lot and it's actually a rather complex question. It's important to fully understand what your cadence and why you should even care about it before we can start talking about what is ideal. So let's start from the beginning. First, we're going to discuss what your cadence is and how to determine it. Second, we'll touch on why you should or shouldn't care about it and how it can improve your running ability. Then after all that knowledge, then, we can discuss what is an ideal cadence for your run. Let's dive right in shall we? Or should I say run right in?!
What is cadence? Cadence is the average number of steps you take in 1 minute while running. You can if you're not sure what your cadence is the best way to figure it our is by going for a run! Once you find yourself getting into your pace, time yourself for 1 minute and count the number of steps you take in that minute. Repeat twice to get the average. You know by, math-ing it up! Boom. You have your cadence!
Pretty simple right? Well, maybe not so much. You see your cadence will change slightly as your speed increases or decreases. Cadence can help you run better and it is something you should know how to train if you'd like to improve your ability to run longer distances. However, for many runners it's not something they need to worry about or maybe just not yet.
So now you're probably wondering... Should I care about improving my cadence? Ultimately yes, everyone who is a runner or sprinter should care about what their cadence is. Having a good cadence can help to reduce injuries, improve speed and help you become a stronger runner. But if you're a newer runner or are more focused on sprinting it's probably more important to be focusing on your stride length for now. Why you ask? Getting your stride length in proper placement is the first step to improving your cadence!
In some cases, having a higher cadence can help to alleviate joint pain caused by running. If this is something you struggle with it is worth toying with higher cadences on your runs to see if the pain subsides. The reason this could help is because you can't have a high cadence if you have poor running form. Again, going back to stride length. Everything with running is intertwined and always flows back to proper running mechanics.
Your ideal cadence for your run is... woah woah woah. Pump the breaks hot shot! There's a lot of articles out there that will say that the ideal cadence is 180 steps per minute. The truth is that it's not that simple. Everyone's ideal cadence is going to be a little different because there are a lot of factors that play into this.
For starters, what part of the race you're in matters a lot actually. You see, your cadence will change with your speed. If you have an increased speed your cadence will increase and vice versa for slower speeds. Have you ever noticed that cadence for a 100m sprinter is far different than a marathoner? Or even a miler to a marathoner? And have you ever looked at your paces after a run? You typically don't run the exact same pace for each mile. Usually, you're trying to run negative splits so therefore your cadence is going to be lower at the beginning of a race and higher towards the end of the race.
Furthermore, your ability level and running form will be big factors in determining your cadence. Elite runners usually don't hit that 180 step cadence until they're well into their race and spend a lot of their race at lower cadences. Your ideal cadence is really about maintaining proper stride length for your pace and cardiovascular ability. Doing drills and specific cadence training will improve your speed and increase your step rate. But there isn't really a one size fits all, this is the cadence you should strive for all the time number. It's just not that simple.
So in the end cadence is something you should be striving to improve. Understanding why you would want to improve it and when to increase or decrease your cadence is the first step to figuring our your ideal cadence. It may never be 180 steps per minute at any point of your race. As long as you've got proper stride length and are running injury free then you're probably good where you're at!
Hope this has been helpful for y'all! Here's a little video of a drill that can help to improve your stride length and ultimately your cadence. Thanks for the read team!
Train Like An Athlete