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Cadence Training (Read 1481 times)

    I'm interested in this concept purely because I noticed a totally stupid trait during today's abismal training effort. When I felt the need to slow my pace (this doesn't happen often as I am pretty darn slow but today was a mood issue) I noticed that I simply started taking smaller steps rather than taking slower strides! All that means is that I was running a lot longer to cover the same distance and my pace appears to drop - but really my feet are hitting the floor many more times to cover the same distance. I am running at the same cadence rate (always nice to have a new word to bore the non-runners that surround me in the real world so thanks for that) but achieving less. I am a little confused about the cadence thing. It seems to me that the technique I described above is a stupid mistake on my part, or am I wrong? Logic would tell me that I should slow my cadence rate rather than keeping it the same and covering a shorter distance? I can understand that if elite runners are all having a cadence rate of appox 180 than that is obviously the right place to be. I think though that there might be a danger in someone new to running distances like myself, focusing on this particular factor in their performance. Thanks though. It's given me food for thoguht. I'm not feeling very bright today and I may have misunderstood the entire thread!
    You did exactly the right thing. Remember that you only gain forward momentum when your foot is on the ground pushing you forward. When you are in the air, you are doing nothing to maintain your forward momentum. Stated simply, the more time your feet spend off the ground, the more inefficiency in your stride, and the more wasted energy. So now compare the two things you can do when you feel tired: (1) slow your cadence but maintain your full stride length, or (2) maintain your cadence but shorten your stride length. With option (1) you still have your full stride, so your feet spend the same amount of time in the air. With option (2) your feet stay closer the ground and spend less time in the air. All things being equal, option (2) is more efficient.
    How To Run a Marathon: Step 1 - start running. There is no Step 2.
      I think the fact that most elite runners tend to have a stride rate of around 180 is a result of being fit, not the other way around. I think most runners, including elites, will eventually find that a cadence in this range is most efficient. I'm not convinced that intentionally trying to increase you cadence is the best approach. I do think that trying to focus on not overstriding can help, and will probably result in a faster cadence for someone who is an overstrider to begin with. The only drill i've ever done that is close to what you are asking, Scout, is to run in "stealth mode." That is when I try to run as quietly as possible. Turns out to run quietly you need to run with short quick steps. I started this a few years ago when I was coming back from an achilles injury and was going to the Y to do weights instead of running. Eventually I could run enough that I would do a 2 mile warmup on dreadmill before weights and I started noticing a lot of people (who weren't runners) ran with really loud steps--they slammed the belt with each step and their cadence was much slower than mine. I started playing around with this and trying to run even more quietly. I noticed two things: 1. trying to run silently results in a faster turnover, and 2. it wasn't really any harder--in fact it felt easier on my legs. I still practice stealth mode once in a when I am out on an easy run. I also have counted--just out of curiosity--and found that my stride rate is around 180 or a bit faster at just about every pace above a slow, easy jog. I actually use this information when I do strides on the road. Instead of needing to look at my watch, I just hit the lap button, run 60 steps and hit the lap button again. It's always right around 20 seconds.

      Runners run.

        I think the fact that most elite runners tend to have a stride rate of around 180 is a result of being fit, not the other way around. I think most runners, including elites, will eventually find that a cadence in this range is most efficient. I'm not convinced that intentionally trying to increase you cadence is the best approach. I do think that trying to focus on not overstriding can help, and will probably result in a faster cadence for someone who is an overstrider to begin with.
        You know, I was getting ready to say something much like this when I got called away from the desk. Just because "elite athletes do it" doesn't mean that it's appropriate for everyone to try to increase their cadence to 180 BPM. 180 may indeed be the most efficient cadence at elite levels of fitness and running speeds. But how many beginning runners should be running at those speeds? I've seen more than one relatively new runner hear about the 180-BPM thing, suddenly change their cadence to 180, and end up hurt - IMHO, because of it. At the new-runner level, other things are more important. I can't speak to elite-level training, but it doesn't seem to be a good idea for new runners to try to reach this level right off.

        Roads were made for journeys...

        Scout7


        CPT Curmudgeon

          Alright, this is what I was trying to figure out! I guess I was getting frustrated because I've seen cadence training being touted as some sort of magical training formula for increasing speed or whatever, with no REAL ideas given as to how to do it, or what the end state should be. I agree with a lot of what you all have said, too. I think that cadence is a good part of increased fitness, and if people ask I tell them that they should just run more. The response back was that they want to make sure they're running correctly. How am I supposed to know if you're running correctly? Plus, how are THEY supposed to know if they keep changing what they're doing? I like the idea of the "stealth running". I've done that, too, although again, not to specifically increase my cadence. And I think that idea is where I've been struggling with it. Like a lot of you said, you don't go out with the SOLE intention to increase your cadence to 180. It's a matter of form, it's a matter of speed, and it's a matter of fitness.
            Just to throw my two cents in--sometimes I monitor my stride rate on runs and notice that when I'm tired, the first thing that starts to go is cadence. If I can be conscious of this and think "increase cadence" instead of "speed up" I find that I often relax and feel much better. I think that mkleiman is right--I often think of the point of increasing cadence as making my legs most like a wheel, if that makes any sense at all. Newton told us a long time ago that it takes no more energy for an object to travel at a higher velocity than a lower velocity on a level surface The moral of this is that once we get up to speed what costs energy in running is not moving fast, (if we disregard the effects of wind which seem to me to be fairly minimal) it is all the extra motion we have to make to move fast. An experiment to try is to measure your normal cadence on a long run and then concentrate for a couple of miles on maintaining 5-10 strides per minute faster. It feels a bit awkward at first, but for some reason (maybe I naturally overstride) after initially feeling more tired I will find a groove where I run faster with less energy. I think that practice with this has improved my running economy. I've also done Mike's "stealth running"--the noise that your feet make is precious energy escaping; it is the sound of your foot putting on the brakes with every step. Finally--is the 180 stride rate a result of being fit? I have also experimented with various levels of fitness Wink, and find that my stride rate doesn't change much. I also know a lot of people who workout more than I do and must be fitter but can't run as fast--just like when I jump in the pool and get dropped by out of shape swimmers. I think that runners tend to overemphasize the correlation between fitness and fastness and underemphasize the mechanics of running, maybe because the mechanics can't be changed so easily. I don't think, though, that increasing fitness automatically will give you the right stride rate. It will probably just make you stronger and skinnier.
              Just to throw my two cents in--sometimes I monitor my stride rate on runs and notice that when I'm tired, the first thing that starts to go is cadence. If I can be conscious of this and think "increase cadence" instead of "speed up" I find that I often relax and feel much better.
              I notice the same thing. Usually at the end of a hard long run or a race, the only thing I'm thinking about is turnover. I think when I'm tired, I start to overstride and then my turnover slows down. So at then end I'm fighting that, and trying to stay relaxed and keep a quick turnover.
              Newton told us a long time ago that it takes no more energy for an object to travel at a higher velocity than a lower velocity on a level surface The moral of this is that once we get up to speed what costs energy in running is not moving fast, (if we disregard the effects of wind which seem to me to be fairly minimal) it is all the extra motion we have to make to move fast.
              What extra motion is there in running faster? Aren't we just making the same motion but pushing off with more force? When we are running on the surface of the earth, through air, we are definitely being acted upon by several unbalanced forces. So moving faster does cost more energy, doesn't it? I don't think you can disregard air resistence as much as you think. Then again I'm no physicist.
              Finally--is the 180 stride rate a result of being fit? I have also experimented with various levels of fitness Wink, and find that my stride rate doesn't change much. I also know a lot of people who workout more than I do and must be fitter but can't run as fast--just like when I jump in the pool and get dropped by out of shape swimmers. I think that runners tend to overemphasize the correlation between fitness and fastness and underemphasize the mechanics of running, maybe because the mechanics can't be changed so easily. I don't think, though, that increasing fitness automatically will give you the right stride rate. It will probably just make you stronger and skinnier.
              Here I was using the term fitness to mean fastness. Since the goal of training is to race faster, running fitness = fastness for the purposes of this discussion. Running mechanics, aerobic endurance, weight, strength, leg turnover etc. etc. these things are all parts of running fitness. My point was really that elite runners all tend to have a cadence of around 180 because they are good runners, not the other way around. I guess what I'm saying is that I agree cadence is part of being fast but improving your cadence on its own will not make you faster. I do see some value in practicing a fast cadence--as I discussed with stealth mode--but I tend to think that most runners, if they run long enough, will eventually settle in somewhere near 180 just through normal training because for whatever reason, that seems to be the most efficient RPM for us humans. I doubt most of the elites we're talking about ever messed with their cadence. I'm sure some did, but most probably just settled there naturally.

              Runners run.

              Scout7


              CPT Curmudgeon

                Mike, I think that you're fairly right about the settling into a standard cadence. I think most average runners usually hit around 170-175. As for the being tired and having cadence go down..... I wonder how much of the decreased cadence is due to worsening form? If your form drops off, I think your stride rate and stride length are going to be adversely affected. Also, I'm still not sold on the value of training cadence only. I think that people are short-selling the rest of the equation. Especially a newer runner.
                  What extra motion is there in running faster? Aren't we just making the same motion but pushing off with more force? When we are running on the surface of the earth, through air, we are definitely being acted upon by several unbalanced forces. So moving faster does cost more energy, doesn't it? I don't think you can disregard air resistence as much as you think. Then again I'm no physicist.
                  I agree with everything you say above, Mike. I'm not sure about the answer to this question, but I wanted to reassure you that I'm not a crazy POSE wierdo. This is a question I wonder about because mechanically (I was in a former life an AP Physics teacher) it really shouldn't cost us much more energy to move faster over even terrain. For constant velocity all you need is balanced forces--"An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an external force." When forces are unbalanced we have acceleration (speeding up or slowing down). Moving faster obviously takes more energy, but I don't think it's because we have to push off much harder (try this on your run--we push off hard when we accelerate, but once we get to a steady pace, be it MP, 5k pace or mile pace, there is little difference in how hard we are pushing off the ground). The force of wind would be the only reason to push off harder, and it is certainly tiring, but the difference between a 5mph wind and 10mph wind is not hugely significant--a good runner can beat a slightly worse runner even if the worse one drafts the entire race. What costs energy, it seems to me, is maintaining form. The difference between the elites and you and me is that a runner like Geb can run easy at 62s per 400. This is a matter of fitness to be sure, but was he really more fit as an 18 year old than our top college runners are? I'd say he is less fit, but more coordinated. As we move at faster paces, we have to become much more coordinated and precise--and it is more difficult to maintain rhythm and efficiency. We begin to waste motion trying to hold it together. This is why race-pace training is so important--it teaches us to groove a certain pace. But it is also dangerous because we never practice moving at a faster pace, and this is why I think, we tend to hit plateaus in our running. Hence the importance of drills and strides and stealth running. It's also why, I think, a lot of people who begin running later in life don't see the type of improvement that younger runners do. As kids, we're always sprinting around all over the place and so the coordination to run fast is there and programmed. When we're older we have to consciously tell ourselves to sprint and don't have many occasions to do so--so we get wired into never developing the coordination it takes to run quickly efficiently. Developing that coordination is tiring, but that's what we do when we are training, that's why when we're fit and run the race of our lives, it felt easy.
                  Scout7


                  CPT Curmudgeon

                    I agree to some extent about the kids being natural runners. As for the physics, remember that when we run, we don't just move forward, we also move up and down. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, most of our energy goes into launching us upwards, not propelling us forwards. (Yeah, they mention that in POSE or Chi, or whatever, but it's generally a truism). However, the differentiation here is that things like Chi and POSE tell us that by doing certain things, we can shift the direction of the energy. How true that is, I'm not sure. But, they couple that whole forward lean in with a higher cadence of running, too, so it all balances out. As for the age comparison...Look at what is generally considered the competitive age group for just about any endurance event; almost always it's the 30-35 year range. Additionally, I think that many of the later AG's remain very competitive for one simple reason: Base Mileage. That's it right there. A 33 year old marathoner, who's been running through HS and college, has a significantly greater base than a 23 y.o. collegiate marathoner. And to me, that's where the fitness is key. Most every source I've ever read talks about the idea of putting in all those long, relatively easier miles in the off season, so that come race day, you've got that in the bag. I see much LESS emphasis put on cadence. In fact, other than Chi or POSE or one of those, I have seen no plan that specifically addresses it (other than that you should work on it), and nothing that has a day on the schedule where you're specifically counting your cadence with the emphasis to up your stride count. Is it a side-effect of other drills and training? Certainly. BUT...if that's the case, why spend time working nothing but cadence, when there are drills that will help improve it as well as other things? I think that's my real question......Why work on upping your cadence, with no regard to other parts of the system (other than general miles)?
                      I think that's my real question......Why work on upping your cadence, with no regard to other parts of the system (other than general miles)?
                      I don't think I (or anyone else) was advocating that--but I will say that a huge base of running is stored just as much in increased coordination of the running motion as it is in other aspects of what counts for "fitness." In a certain sense, what we are discussing is what it means to be fit. I'm just making that small claim that neuromuscular coordination is an underemphasized aspect of fitness and the small corollary that when we go out and run mileage we are training the neurological structure as much as the cardiovascular structure (not that these are unrelated by any means). When the neurological structure is emphasized, then we begin to see the point of doing things like practicing different stride rates.
                        What a dorkfest. I feel like I've wandered into a Star Trek convention. With physics, even. Wow. If someone had mentioned Vulcans, and maybe if Jeff had thrown in a few casual references to Plato or Rousseau or Hobbes (or Calvin), I'd have found the dork trifecta. The geek motherland. Or mothership. Whatever. Awesome. And now, thanks to you people, I have to get up tomorrow and go like, uh, count my steps or something. Apparently, if my count is lower than 180, I'm not worthy and must hang my head in shame. Or watch more Battlestar Galactica reruns. Or maybe pose while focusing my chi? Definitely one of those. I couldn't really follow the conversation. Too much math. I think. Carry on. Live long and prosper. ------------------------- Modified to add the standard all-purpose "John Kerry" disclaimer: the above was an attempted joke. If you laughed, it was a successful joke. If not, it was a "botched" joke. But definitely an attempt at humor. Either way, neither I, John Kerry, nor anyone else with the initials J.K., will be held responsible for the above content.
                        E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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                          Why work on upping your cadence, with no regard to other parts of the system (other than general miles)?
                          This is a total strawman argument. No one ever said that cadence drills were the most important thing to add to one's workout regimen, and no one ever said that you should focus on cadence drills to the exclusion of other aspects of your running. Your original question asked for "thoughts or experiences" on cadence drills, not whether cadence drills were the end-all-be-all solution for improving performance (hint: they're not).
                          I have seen no plan that specifically addresses it (other than that you should work on it), and nothing that has a day on the schedule where you're specifically counting your cadence with the emphasis to up your stride count.
                          I also haven't seen any plans than say on Monday you should concentrate on holding your arms relaxed, while on Thursday your attention should be solely on your breathing rhythm, and on Saturday its all about the stretching. Running plans tell you how far to run, and how fast. The closest thing to a form drill in a traditional running plan is striders. Does that mean that form is unimportant? Does that mean that improving your form won't help your running economy, and therefore your performance? In my opinion, yes, cadence drills contribute far less to a runner's performance than a stronger base, and yes, they contribute far less than speed work. If you have to choose only one or two things to work on, I say pick one of those. But if you can do more than one thing at a time, I stand by my view that working on cadence can help many runners.
                          How To Run a Marathon: Step 1 - start running. There is no Step 2.
                          Scout7


                          CPT Curmudgeon

                            The strawman argument is not MY argument. I have seen this discussion elsewhere, and the general consensus is that people are going out for the usual runs with a metronome and a HRM, and they start out trying to up their cadence while keeping HR at normal levels. They aren't doing any drills, they aren't talking about adjusting form, they aren't trying to run at a faster pace, they are just trying to get their cadence up to 180 (because that's what the elites run at). Then they wonder why it's so hard to run at 180, when A) they do maybe 25 miles / week, and B) they do nothing but try to artificially increase it while not focusing on other things. I agree with everything you've said. You cannot have one without the other. That was the whole reason for asking about this. I personally feel that you CAN increase cadence, and efficiency, but you don't do it by just trying to run at 180 steps per minute. That has been my argument (maybe I wasn't quite so clear at the beginning, but this whole issue has been in my head for a while, and I was trying to seek fresh perspective). I'm not singling out any one person here, or elsewhere, and from what it sounds like, pretty much everyone here seems to have similar ideas as to mine.
                              I personally feel that you CAN increase cadence, and efficiency, but you don't do it by just trying to run at 180 steps per minute. That has been my argument (maybe I wasn't quite so clear at the beginning, but this whole issue has been in my head for a while, and I was trying to seek fresh perspective).
                              Well, I'm sufficiently confused by your posts that I'm just going to drop out of this thread. You seem to have started this discussion with the intent of arguing that runners shouldn't go out with the goal of achieving a 180 stride rate and/or that runners shouldn't forgoe other workouts exclusively for turnover drills. Um, ok. Roll eyes No one ever said they should. Even Daniels -- in his famous study from which the 180 stride rate for elite athletes was first identified -- says that sub-elite runners have a more economy at stride rates slightly below 180. And I'm still looking for the expert who you imagine suggesting that cadence drills are the most important workout; I kinda suspect he doesn't exist. Confused The only interesting point, in my opinion, is whether or not runners with stride rates significantly below 180 can benefit from increasing their stride rate. Should such runners do turnover drills or not? Thats why I contributed to this thread -- because I think they should, and most running experts agree. I don't understand why you would mock runners who use metronomes (or their electronic equivalent), HR monitors or any other drills to increase their stride rate. The predominance of published evidence suggests that stride drills can positively contribute to a runner's performance. To quote Pfitzinger: "By increasing stride rate, you not only increase your potential to run fast but also reduce the likelihood of injury." Sounds pretty good to me. Wink Good luck with your running Scout7.
                              How To Run a Marathon: Step 1 - start running. There is no Step 2.
                                What a dorkfest. I feel like I've wandered into a Star Trek convention. With physics, even. Wow. If someone had mentioned Vulcans, and maybe if Jeff had thrown in a few casual references to Plato or Rousseau or Hobbes (or Calvin), I'd have found the dork trifecta. The geek motherland. Or mothership. Whatever.
                                I'm a running dork and proud of it, but more of an Aristotle, James, Dewey, Foucault guy. Thanks for asking. Big grin
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