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What is Cadence in Running?

Your running cadence, or stride rate, is the number of steps you take per minute. As a runner, your cadence will measure how quick and efficient your stride is. For many runners, the average cadence is 170-180 steps per minute, but keep in mind there is no single best cadence for everyone. As a runner, you must find the stride rate that works best for your body and running style. 

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If you want to improve your performance as a runner, increasing your running cadence is a good place to start. According to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, a higher running cadence can lead to a more efficient running technique, better performance, and reduced risk of injuries. Your stride rate may vary depending on the type of run you’re doing, such as a tempo run or interval session. External influences like fatigue, road conditions, and weather, as well as internal factors like height, weight, and physical fitness, can also influence your cadence.

What’s a Good Cadence For a Beginner Runner?

Ninety to 130 steps per minute (SPM) is a range to aim for as a beginner runner. With time and practice, your running cadence will naturally improve. While your cadence rate is important to your performance, don’t make it your only focus. Instead, you should also focus on other aspects of proper form and technique. Running with good posture, light feet, and a shorter stride length will naturally increase your cadence. It’s also crucial to listen to your body as it adjusts to running. If you find yourself running at a cadence that feels forced or unsustainable, slow down until it feels comfortable. Remember, running is about consistent improvement. Soon enough, you’ll hit your target. 

How Stride Length Impacts Running Cadence

Your stride length has a big impact on your running cadence. A long stride length means each step will take you farther, resulting in fewer steps per minute. While a long stride may sound good in theory, it can lead to heavy landing, overstriding, and poor form. Taking smaller strides with a quicker turnover rate improves efficiency. Additionally, a shorter stride length reduces the force of impact on your landing joints, reducing your risk of injuries.

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Running Pace vs. Cadence

Running pace and running cadence are related, but different. Your pace measures the speed you run, while your cadence measures the number of steps you take per minute. Your running pace helps when gauging your performance during a specific distance or route. However, it doesn’t help you measure and optimize your stride. Your cadence measures how efficiently you are running, as it focuses on the length and frequency of each step. Pace and cadence are critical data points to use when measuring your performance. By analyzing both metrics, you can get a better sense of your stride speed, lap times, and personal records. Tracking this information can show how you’re improving over time.

How do You Measure Running Cadence?

You can measure your cadence with a cadence running tracker or cadence counter. You can also use a running watch, smartwatch, or an app, which will record your steps per minute, pace, lap time, and much more. Alternatively, you can manually count the number of steps you take in a minute, but it’s difficult and less accurate than using a device to record your data. 

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To find your optimal cadence, try running at a natural pace where you can still hold a conversation. When you find an optimal running rhythm, count your steps for 60 seconds. The resulting number is your cadence. Once you know your cadence, improving it is about increasing your steps per minute slowly. The first few times may feel awkward, but by trying different stride lengths and frequencies, you can adjust your cadence until you find the right balance of speed, efficiency, and comfort. Continue to practice your cadence over time and record your progress as you run. Keeping a log will help you identify areas of improvement and track the success of your running routine.

How to Increase Cadence

To increase your running cadence, focus on taking quicker steps and avoid overstriding. It’s also helpful to practice running drills. These exercises will increase your foot speed and coordination, leading to better running form. Finally, if you focus on long-distance running, add periodic interval training into your running routine. Training yourself to run in bursts quickens your stride and actively increases your running cadence. Over time, you’ll start to increase your steps per minute and improve your overall running performance.