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Should I work on my run cadence?

I was hoping to get some time to write about this topic, and finally I got it. Let’s go.

On the Level I Coach course in Spain (Fetri) they didn’t talk much about it. Just a couple of things here and there and that’s it. And actually, I passed my first course with the USA Triathlon to be a certified tri coach, and, since the beginning, they are touching this topic more in deep.

All I learn from cadence on the run comes from my experience as runner, triathlete or even sports guy, and from the books and blog I read.

Actually, last post-season I started to read Owen Anderson’s book “Running form” to improve my run. It is a good book, and Owen explain things really clear. But after reading and trying to bring to practice some recommendations from the book, I got into serious doubt:

  • Can I work my running cadence?

  • Should I start working my cadence anytime?

  • Could it be applied to any athlete?

One thing I noticed over the time is that most of the studies are coming from analysis of elite or pro athletes, and that could cause a big mistake. Elite athletes or even professional athletes are devoted to the sport. They don’t have to work 9 to 17 in an office, take the kids to karate and find some time to get the session done. They just eat, train, sleep and repeat.

For instance, in Valencia’s Marathon, in 2019, there was 21.234 people running the marathon (just the marathon, they have also 21k and 10k). Just 0.09% of the runners were elite athletes.

And the majority of the studies and cases are based on these kind of runners. And, honestly, I consider myself a decent runner, but Bekele is 1,65m tall and weights 56 kgs, and I’m 1,79m tall and my weight is 75kgs. And that’s a huge difference when studies comes in place.

So, coming back to the cadence, we were told that there’s a pace and a cadence depending on the height, so this is my starting point.

Here is a table to check if you are OK with your cadence. Sorry for the milers, but this is in metrical system.

Like I said, I’m not an elite athlete but I’m a decent runner. I can run a good pace (5:37 a mile) for long periods of time. Even though, my 10k PR is something around 37’, my half marathon is 1:23h, and my PR in marathon is 2:53h. That’s not so impressive but I didn’t prepare properly any ot the 3 races.

But consistency and hard good pays-off in this body. So trying to improve something I got into this running options that the book offered me.

So taking the parameters we saw on the picture, considering my height, to be able to run 15k an hour (6:26 a mile pace) I should average 193 steps per minute. Or even 180, if I were just 1 cm taller than I am. And I can consider myself in this range because my legs are longer than they should for my height.

Here you have the cadence mixed with my pace (sorry for the Milers, this is in meters).

I started the season (can we call this “season”?) on November 10th, and my last run was today but I got until February 1st. This is cadence for the whole session. I would write a post on intervals.

My average cadence is 162, and my average pace is 4:12 (6:45 a mile). Running at 15km/h (4:00km/min) is 6:26 a miles I should average 193 steps per minute. And my fastest run session here was 8km (5miles) at 3:31 (5:39 a mile) averaging 175 steps per minute, when I should be running with a cadence of 199.

Should I change my way of running?

I don’t think so.

I’ve been reading a lot, and people say that you can be a faster running either running at a quicker cadence making shorter the time you contact the ground, or making longer strides. That would give me the chance for another good post.

So, what should I do?

Taking into account that the studies are based on pro or even elite athletes (not even triathletes), and that studies make average conclusions about a matter, I would be very cautious with any decision to change your way of running.

Here are my recommendations

People starting at running or triathlon, don’t even think about it. They have a natural way of running. The important thing here is to analyze the run and make them more efficient when it comes to running. That’s why you should be patient.

Moments of the season. It would be a huge mistake try to change something that basic like this in the middle of the season. And even worst try to get some results on the short term.

Decent athletes with cadence not following the theory. I don’t you should change a thing in that sense unless you’ve improved everything else. You change this and you would have to learn how to run again. Not from the beginning but...that would cause a loss in your confidence, and eventually, some injury may happen.

So, I won’t recommend to change cadence first. This would be one of the last things to change before anything.

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