Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY SASHA GOLLISH

Stroke rate helps keep us on pace when we swim. Ca­dence is our guide­line for ef­fi­cient cy­cling. Is it be­cause the run por­tion is last that we of­ten ne­glect our stride?

Im­proved run­ning ef­fi­ciency, from a higher ca­dence – the num­ber of foot strikes or steps per minute – will not only im­prove your run times, it may even help pre­vent in­jury.

Take a mo­ment and vi­su­al­ize how you run. Where do you land? On your mid-foot? Heels? Toes? What does your up­per body do? Do you twist? Do your arms stay static?

Like ev­ery other sport, there is skill as­so­ci­ated with with run­ning and there is an op­ti­mal way to run. To be ef­fi­cient you should aim for a ca­dence of 170–190 steps per minute, strik­ing mid-foot with a “quiet” (still) up­per body and with your arms swing­ing nat­u­rally to help pro­pel you for­ward.

How do you im­prove your ca­dence and stride?


Knee lift is the key to im­prov­ing your ca­dence. In­stead of heel strik­ing, you need to be able to drive for­ward by lift­ing your knees. Usain Bolt, the fastest man alive, is known for his knee lift, which creates the for­ward propul­sion that makes him so fast. If it works for Bolt, it will prob­a­bly work for the rest of us.

I have been work­ing with Dr. Kris Shep­pard at the Run­ner’s Academy over the last 18 months. He started me off with foun­da­tion move­ments: be­ing able to stand on one leg and bring my other knee up to 90°. From there it was a pro­gres­sion: • Mov­ing from stand­ing to be able to hop

from leg to leg. • To A’s and B’s (pro­gress­ing from a march, to

a skip, and fi­nally a run). • To work­ing in some fine mo­tor skills with “ankling,” (small cir­cles around the an­kle with the op­po­site foot). • Fi­nally pro­pel­ling my­self for­ward with

bound­ing. You can­not cheat on hills. Knee lift and higher ca­dence are re­quired to get up you up the hill faster. Test your­self – run nor­mally on one re­peat, then in­crease your ca­dence by driv­ing your knees up and for­ward on the next re­peat. The trick is to main­tain the same ex­er­tion for each re­peat. You should find that the higher ca­dence gets you to the top faster.

You get bonus train­ing on the way down, too. In­stead of heel strik­ing and let­ting your feet land in front of you, stand tall and land on your mid-foot, with your foot di­rectly un­der­neath your body. Your legs will say thank you at the bot­tom.

Now turn around and do it again.


I’m sure you’ve been told be­fore that, as you ap­proach the end of the bike por­tion of a race, you should in­crease your ca­dence on the bike to flush your legs be­fore you start run­ning. I find you can help your legs even more if the first cou­ple of steps you take off the bike are re­ally short and quick.

Our bod­ies love mus­cle mem­ory, so if you start with quick strides im­me­di­ately you have a greater chance of main­tain­ing those short, ef­fi­cient strides.

You can prac­tice this at at home. Leave your run­ning shoes by the door. When you get back from a ride, prac­tice your tran­si­tion and do four to six strides of about 80 to 100 m in length. The goal is to in­crease your speed through each stride.

I am a strong be­liever in video feed­back and, with the cur­rent mo­bile and tablet tech­nol­ogy, al­most ev­ery­one has im­me­di­ate ac­cess to video. Look­ing at your­self is help­ful be­cause you can usu­ally pin­point what’s work­ing and what needs to change just by watch­ing your­self. So grab a friend, head out to a hill, track or road and video your­selves run­ning and get­ting those knees up. In a short time you’ll find your ca­dence is faster, too.

Sasha Gollish is a per­for­mance en­gi­neer with a coach­ing diploma from the Cana­dian Sport In­sti­tute of Ad­vanced Coach­ing. She is cur­rently a PHD can­di­date at the Univer­sity of Toronto in the fac­ulty of en­gi­neer­ing.

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