To improve your running speed focus first on maximising the stride frequency (cadence) followed by the stride length. Both the speed of the leg turnover and the length of the stride are important in efficient running. However, initially the priority must be given to the former. Aim to maximise your leg turnover to a range of 80-95 cycles/minute depending on your goals (see below) i.e. each foot strikes the ground 80-95 times/minute or 160-190 times for both feet.
95+ /minute for doing speed drills and races of under 5k
90/minute moderate speed and longer distance races
80 – 85/minute easy pace/recovery
The advantages of faster cadence is the reduction in both the overall ground contact time and vertical movement:
- Less ground contact time means less friction between the foot and the ground and less chance of being slowed down by gravity.
- Reducing the amount of vertical movement (or bouncing up and down) feeds directly into the forward movement which again contributes to faster running. In addition, the reduced bouncing minimises the risk of injuries that may come on at the end of a long run.
Once you are comfortable with faster cadence the next step is to work on stride length. Sprinters benefit most from longer strides as the increased demand for high power output in short distance running is ideally suited to a longer stride. However a competent long distance runner that can maintain leg turn over in the range of 90 per minute will also benefit from lengthening their stride, providing there is no over stretching. When increasing the stride length remember not to slow down the cadence.
Next time you run count the number of times same foot hits the ground in 20 seconds and multiply by 3 to get your per minute rate. Alternatively many heart rate monitors are equiped with a foot pod that transmits live info to your wrist watch.
With healthy wishes,
Read on Born to Run