Runners; Reduce muscle injuries and soreness.
Geelong runners and long distance athletes are always asking me, “What can I do to prevent leg soreness?”
While there are lots of things that you can do to help, a simple change you can make to your running or walking style is to increase your cadence (how many steps you are taking per minute). A higher cadence leads to less vertical bouncing. Therefore it reduces impact stress forces on joints, muscles, tendons and bones. Your stride length will slightly shorten and your legs will turn over at a faster pace. Think of it like riding your bike in a low gear where your legs pedal faster but it is much easier and economical.
For shin splint sufferers this is a must try for your running or walking technique. The following conditions would also benefit from a faster cadence:
Patellar tracking syndrome
Stress fracture sufferers
So how many steps should I be taking per minute and how do I know how many I’m taking?
Ideally 180 steps per minute (SPM) for an experienced long distance runner should be your target cadence. Al though, like most things biomechanical it varies between each individual. If you are new to the activity that you are doing then I would expect you to have a slower than ideal cadence. My advice would be to figure out your current average cadence and if it is in the 160 or 170 SPM range, try and increase this in 5 SPM blocks. Taking 1-2 weeks to customize yourself to the new target before progressing to the next goal. For example, if you measure your cadence at 164 SPM try running at 169 SPM for 2 weeks. When that starts to feel comfortable try and aim for 174 SPM for the next 2 weeks.
NB an extra 5 steps per minute doesn’t sound like a lot, but give it a go, it’s harder than you think.
Below are some tips and friendly apps that can help you measure, manage and monitor your cadence.
1) To measure your cadence you can simply count how many times just one of your feet hits the ground over a 30 second period, multiply this number by 4 and it will give you your total number of steps taken per minute.
2) There is a smart phone app called runzi (Running cadence injury coach) that can measure your cadence for you. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.liketivist.runsafe
3) Record Beater is a free app that changes the tempo of the song that you are listening to, this will then match the beat of your steps per minute. If you can’t run without your favourite tunes playing this app may help you from getting caught up in the music and running to the songs beat rather than your own. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=dk.oleslir.recordbeater
4) Download a metronome app, set the beat to say… 175 BPM and listen to the beat play while trying to sync your steps with it. This is a simple, free and effective way to help you stick to your target cadence.
5) Running GPS watches like the “Garmin Forerunner 220 and 620” have a built in cadence sensor in the watch, giving you real time accurate cadence measurements. This is an expensive tool compared to the methods above but full of other great features to help you monitor your training progress.
So give it a go! Try and consciously increase how many steps you take while you are jogging and see if your body thanks you for the reduced joint and muscle stress forces. If you have any questions regarding cadence or have any injury concerns or queries please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org