By Jack Daniels
Every time I work with a group of new runners I am
amazed at how many of them use a very slow leg turnover. The ideal cadence
is about 180 steps per minute - 90 footfalls with each foot. This turnover
rate provides for the most economical running technique for most people,
and it would definitely be worth the time and effort to adjust your own
stride rate to be in the proximity of that turnover rate.
Stride rate and chance of injury. Stride rate can influence the
possibility of injury among runners, with a very slow running cadence
subjecting the runner to a greater chance of suffering a setback in
preparation for a coming race. The slower the turnover, the more time the
runner spends in the air, which in turn results in the center of mass
being elevated more; and when center of mass is elevated to a greater
height, landing shock is increased a fair amount, with each step you take.
When you consider that you will take about 20,000 or more steps (with each
foot) in a 4-hour marathon (while elite runners are more in the
neighborhood of 12,000 to 14,000 steps, in their typical 2hour 10 minute
to 2 hour 30 minute run), the accumulated force of landing can be
considerable. The best way to minimize landing shock is to try to minimize
how high you elevate your body with each step, and the best way to do that
is to try to roll over the ground rather than bound from one foot to the
other. Slow turnover borders on bounding when you run.
Test yourself. It is quite simple to check your own turnover rate.
Count the number of times that your right foot strikes the ground during
1-minute of running. If it is much fewer than 90, then try again and make
a concentrated effort to take shorter, quicker, lighter steps for another
1-minute test effort. Land with a mid-foot strike (avoid landing
fore-footed as this will put extra stress on your calf muscles and often
leads to tight and sore calves). Relax your feet as you move along, and
pretend that you are running over a field of raw eggs and your goal is to
not break any of them. It is better to shuffle along than to bound along.
Keep working on this, periodically during various runs, just to keep tabs
on your progress. It is important to remember that to practice running
with a quicker turnover does not mean to run faster; the idea is to be
able to run at a normal pace, but with a nice light leg cadence.
The economy of running. The amount of energy you use to run is a
measure of running economy and some individuals are far more (or less)
economical than others. A great deal of the differences in running economy
is inherent in nature, but economy can be improved with training and
practice. It is not at all unusual for a beginning runner to have a 10% or
greater improvement in running economy, with regular training. One of the
easiest ways to improve running economy is to adopt a nice light, quick
turnover as you run. It doesn't take improved fitness to accomplish this;
it is strictly a matter of deciding to do it. There is little doubt that
improving the time in which you can complete your marathon is not nearly
as important as getting to the finish line. However, most runners would
probably be happy to make it 5 or 10 minutes sooner and especially if a
better running turnover resulted in warding off injury, then would the
little adjustment in running technique be well worth the effort.