Give Serious Attention To Your Running Technique
Hitting Your Running Stride
Adapted From: Running For Dummies
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.



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