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Track Workout - Cadence

Objective: Learn various techniques to increase your running cadence (foot strikes per minute). Most runners have a cadence of under 180. All elite runners are at or above that. Increasing your cadence reduces the amount of ground contact time, shortens your stride, and forces you to land your foot closer beneath your center of mass. Generally speaking, all of these will make you faster and reduce the chances of injury. See one runner's dramatic results when increasing her cadence, below. BTW, you should have only one cadence, but several gears. You go faster not by increasing your cadence, but by increasing your forward lean, and this increases your stride length. See Danny Dreyer's video: same cadence, different gears.

Warm Up

Perform a standard warm-up.

Main Set

For a stand-alone cadence workout, after each drill run about 400m focused on your cadence - you can run at a steady pace, or try varying your pace while maintaining the same cadence (see the Danny Dreyer video referenced above).

Exercise or DrillA favorite of Coach...

4 X 30 seconds
Counting every other foot strike (the first is zero), increase your cadence for each repeat, walking back to the starting line.

Jeff Galloway, a former Olympian who is known as the "walk-run guy". See the Video.
4 x 60 seconds running in place, 30 sec rest
Focus on posture and lifting feet quickly
and straight up.
Danny Abshire, founder of Newton shoe company. See the video.

Ankeling: 4 x 40 yds, 15 seconds rest
Small steps fast as you can maintain,
Focus on pushing down (loading the spring)

Bobby McGee (USAT National Coach).
See the video.
Metronome: Set a metronome to beep every right (or left) foot strike, or maybe every third foot strike. Danny Dreyer (Chi Running). See the long boring video.

Cool Down15 minutes - walk 400, stretch for remainder of 15 minutes

Higher Cadence = More Speed, Less Pain

By Kris Johnson (winter 2012),

Last summer I was having a lot of knee problems; every time I ran more than just a mile or two, both my knees would swell up quite a bit and it was painful to run. I had never had knee problems before, so I didn't know what the issue was, and Coach Bill offered to help. He analyzed my running on a treadmill and took videos to show me exactly where the problem was (see the video analysis). He also showed me videos of the correct way to run to compare (see the Running - Great Form page). It turns out that my running form issues - my long strides and heel-striking - were contributing to my knee problems.

Coach Bill mentioned that one way to fix the long stride and heel-striking (and therefore knee) problem was to increase my cadence; that way, I'd be "forced" to land earlier in my stride, not on my heels in front of my body. He gave me a metronome to help with this, and I used it just as he said. I timed the metronome so that my right foot would land on every beat (otherwise it's a little too fast if you do both feet) and I started at a cadence slightly faster than my cadence at the time. I would increase the metronome by just a bit every few times I ran and it definitely fixed my stride problem. Perhaps it was the point after my stride was fixed that I started seeing improvements in my speed. I wasn't a very fast runner to begin with - on a regular 5k run I would be somewhere around 8:30 miles - but after I improved my running technique in a matter of months I had dropped to 7:00 miles!!!

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