Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Cadence Is Crucial 

Over the past 50 years, top coaches and biomechanical studies have concluded that as distance runners get faster, the stride length tends to get shorter. At first this does not seem right. Certainly sprinters strive for the longest stride they can manage. Biomechanically speaking, however, the explosive motion from point A to point B defines sprinting as a different sport from distance running. To “go the distance” the mission is conserving resources. Subtle reductions in effort and elimination of extra motion can maintain strength and resiliency to the end of the race, where the greatest amount of time improvement can be realized.

Over the last 35 years, at my running schools and motivational retreats, I’ve conducted running form evaluations for thousands of runners, with improvement suggestions. Their results have shown me that the mechanical key to running faster in races 5K and longer, is cadence or turnover-more steps per minute. By fine-tuning running form it’s possible to exert less effort, even when running faster. A very simple drill, mentioned below, can help you improve your turnover, as the body adapts to more efficient ways of running. For most, this improves time in races.

Cadence drills usually result in feet staying lower to the ground, touching lightly with less pounding. Running’s main propulsion muscle, the calf, doesn’t have to work as hard. As extra motion is eliminated from the running stride, there’s usually a significant reduction of aches and pains-and injuries. This drill allows the ankle to be alligned directly underneath the hips, so that it can do most of the work, mechanically-reducing the workload of the leg muscles.

Note: Before beginning any workout it is best to warm up gently to get the blood flow into the muscles and to get the neve system working well. One of the best ways to start this process is to get a gentle massage as with the Human Touch Massage Chair. I’ve found that this makes a significant difference in how I feel during my cadence drills.


The Drill:

Warm up with a slow jog of 10-15 minutes, using as many walk breaks as desired.

Time yourself for 30 seconds and simply count the number of steps taken by either the left or the right foot

Jog or walk for @ 30 seconds and then time another half minute interval, striving to increase the count by 1 or 2.

Repeat this process so that you do 4-8 of these cadence-counting repetitions, trying to increase by at least one on each

If you don’t increase the count, just try to hold at the current number

Finish the workout by jogging for the distance or time you have remaining in your run at the pace of your choice.

The most common workout venue for this drill is a short mileage day, during which there is no other “mission”.
You should not try to run faster, but as you continue to increase the number of steps, you will tend to run faster, all other factors constant. Many of my ecoach, retreat and running school clients who have continued to use this drill each week for a year, with no other speedwork, improved their times in races.

As the running form intuitively becomes more efficient, running is easier. Many runners have experienced a reduction in the aggravation of the “weak links” by counting steps in this way, each week. You’re using the ankle instead of the muscles so they can power you to the finish with strength

Note: Olympian Jeff Galloway has coached over a million runners through his running schools, beach and Tahoe retreats, books and training programs-which are fun and offer individualized coaching from Jeff. Subscribe to his free newsletter and blog at

1 comment so far

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  1. I believe that in any sports or fat burning we need to lift weights. Like how runners need to lift weights. And I mean heavy weights. Even if you don’t want to be a bodybuilder, you need weights for strength training and for maintaining muscle mass. Also, if you love running, for the joy of running, don’t give it up. And don’t give up your weight training either.

    More info:
    Running and Bodybuilding 8.5 Tips