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Track Workout - 800s with Cadence Focus

Objective: Learn how 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, with many top marathoners at 190 or higher. 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

Use a sports metronome or a metronome app if you have one, to time your full-cycle cadence - the number of times the same foot hits the track in a minute. This is one half your running cadence, which counts every foot strike; setting a metronome to beep on every foot strike will produce too much noise!

1 X 400 Determine your current full-cycle cadence

5 X 800 at your full-cycle cadence plus 1. For example, if your full-cycle cadence was 76, set your metronome to 78 beats per minute.

You are going to run these 800s using your "new" cadence, at about your 5K pace...
except that you will accelerate slightly for about 50 meters on a straight section of the track. Coach will mark the start and end points for the increased speed. To accelerate, you will maintain your current cadence and gain speed by increasing your body lean, which will lengthen your stride (or land you on your face!).

1 X 400 Add another beat to your full-cycle cadence.

During the next few weeks, try increasing your full-cycle cadence - no more than 1 beat at a time, until you reach at least 90 beats per minute (running cadence of 180). Most top runners have a cadence of 190 or higher -

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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