Marathon Training 2019 Days 21-22: Running Cadence: Important for Your Running Performance and for Avoiding Injury

“You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance” – Katie Kacvinsky

Yesterday was a day off from running, so I walked my dog for ~30 minutes at a fairly brisk pace. Today, I ran for ~32 minutes at an easy pace n the cold. The temperature when I started was about 19 degrees, but despite the cold I encountered about 10 runners and a coyote. I took a different route than what I have done the past two Tuesday mornings and the variety was nice! In a previous post I discussed the important of variety:

At various times during my run I focused on my cadence. This relates to the Tip of the Day, which can help you with your running speed/pace and in injury prevention. After my run I performed the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg stands (~30 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~30 seconds)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 cycles)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balances (~30 seconds)

After these exercises I performed foam rolling for ~10 minutes.

Recommendation: In my last post I mentioned opting in on the Welcome page of Denver Running Coach, in order to receive a complementary fitness training program, which you can follow for 2-3 months. This will help you prepare for specific half- or full-marathon training. The workouts in this program are similar to the ones I perform. I also recommend focusing on cadence periodically when you run, such as for 20-30 seconds at the beginning of each mile.

Tip of the Day: Cadence (the number of steps you take per minute) is an important aspect of your running form and running performance. Ideally, your cadence should be ~180 steps/minute, although it may be closer to 160 steps/minute now. When I first began my training a few weeks ago, my cadence was ~160 steps/minute for some of my first runs. It is now ~170 steps/minute. A quicker cadence can increase your running speed, since running speed or pace = cadence x stride length. A shorter stride length and higher cadence can also be beneficial because a longer stride length is typically associated with heel striking, which can put more stress on the hip and knee joints, and possibly lead to injury in these joints.

How to increase cadence:

  • In a previous post I discussed the importance of arm swing:

  • When you swing one arm forward, the opposite leg will also come forward to keep your body moving in a straight line. Thus, the faster you swing your arms the faster your legs will come forward. Just don’t go too crazy with your arm swing, or your arms and shoulders will probably get tired very quickly!
  • You should also focus on one of the following:
    • Imagine your leg as a wheel and take short light steps. Imagine that you are running on eggshells and don’t want to crush them.
    • Imagine your leg as a pogo stick and focus on exerting force from when the knee is at its highest point until the foot impacts the ground. This will create a rebound of the foot towards your glutes, shortening the stride cycle and allowing your legs to go through the stride cycle quicker.
  • The last two items (leg as wheel and pogo stick) are nearly opposite approaches to increasing cadence and I have used both with success. Although for me, I like the pogo stick approach because I feel I engage the glute muscles more and have more power in my stride.
  • You don’t have to focus on these recommendations throughout your entire run. That would be too mentally draining! However, I recommend focusing on these for 20-30 seconds each mile and over time these will become automatic.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help in any way.

Enjoy your run!

Your friend and coach,


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