PICK UP THE CADENCE
SPEED MOVES GO RUN SOME HILLS
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?
PRACTICE THE ART OF THE KNEE LIFT
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.
PRACTICE FAST FEET WHEN YOU GET OFF THE BIKE
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.