Running cadence is your best insurance policy

Have you counted your running cadence lately? The triathlon season is just around the corner and now is the time to get ready for race day. If you managed to avoid the winter blues your probably feeling pretty confident that this summer will be your best yet. But for the victims of the cold, its not too late, but now you have to pay attention… Running cadence is one of the most important tools for a runner/triathlete to own. Furthermore, the ability to control it will become your insurance policy on race day. We define cadence as the number of steps per minute and as a general rule we look for 180 steps, or 90 steps per leg each minute. Like anything, there are exceptions to this rule with runners of different shapes and sizes, but if you’re not close, you have some work to do. ryan-bourke-feb-2015The first step is being aware of what your number is. The next time your running, settle into your normal rhythm and count the number of steps you take on one side for a minute (remember to start the count with zero) and then double it to get your overall cadence. It is a good idea to track this at the start and finish of your run so you can take note of how fatigued you become through the session. If you do see a significant difference from start to finish, this is your warning light for injury. Turn around to check if your footprints look like potholes in the concrete. If so, this means you’ve lost form, you’re landing heavy and you’re not likely to be enjoying it much… The second step is to break down your default patterning and incorporate a higher cadence into your running. Rather than set a run with intervals based on HR or speed, why not create some intervals with focused cadence work. See if you can run 5 to 10 steps per minute quicker than normal for a short interval. Rest, repeat and develop just like you would with your speed. Then you can use HR and speed as a guideline to find your most efficient cadence. The most important step is to be able to reproduce your ideal cadence on race day under fatigue, especially running off the bike. This is where muscle patterning (memory) becomes so important. If your legs are used to turning over at 180 steps per minute, that’s what they will want to do when you start the run leg. If your technically sound you will have more chance to maintain this under pressure, but awareness is still the trump card here. Sometimes your legs just don’t have the energy to drive into the ground to keep your cadence up, but this is where a skilled cadence runner will be able to deliver. Even with next to no power in your legs, a trained runner should still be able to maintain a cadence close to normal with good rhythm and awareness. We don’t need to take big steps, but we need to take them often. Think about Mirinda Carfrea running down the field in Hawaii. She looks as fresh as they come, but you couldn’t say her legs aren’t tired after 8 hours of racing… This is her insurance policy, just as it is mine and just as it should be yours… Cadence is King! Triathlon training is so often about going harder and going longer. We know with swimming that it’s about technique and efficiency, but for running its different right… Well NO, the truth is running is exactly the same. The best runners have common traits that allow them to run at pace economically. Spend the time to work on your cadence and understand why and how you’re stuck or falling apart on race day… If you can stay close to your most efficient number, your insurance policy will be there even if your energy is not… At CF Racing, we have developed our run clinics to help athletes better understand their run. Video analysis allows us to identify areas of weakness and our principals of running keep them thinking every step. For more information on our i4 Coaching Run Clinics or our weekly Run Squad, please visit our website. Be smart and enjoy! Mitchell Kibby i4 Coaching Run Coach
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