Taking Longer Strides is Only 50% of the Speed Equation
From a mathematical perspective, there are two parts to the speed equation: stride length and cadence. You probably already know that taking longer strides will help you run faster. And you also know that you don’t want to stretch your leg way out in front when you do this, or you’ll put too much stress and strain on your knees and be prone to injuries down the line.
But how much do you know about the other half of the equation?
Stride x Cadence = Speed
I’ll admit it, the math is a bit complicated, but the overall concept isn’t. If you multiply the number of steps you take per minute while you run with the length of your running stride, you’ll get your running pace. (The reason it’s complicated is because you have to convert units, like meters to miles and minutes to hours, and then convert speed into pace…but leave the calculating to me.)
Longer Strides and Faster Cadence Leads to Increased Speed
But doing either of these things, at will, isn’t so easy.
Let’s take cadence, for example.
First of all, do you even know what your cadence is? If you don’t, there are a couple of ways to figure it out.
The first way is to go for a run (you want to be running comfortably) and count how many steps you take in one minute. That’s your cadence. For example, if your right foot hits the ground 80 times in one minute, your cadence is said to be twice that (to account for your left foot hitting the ground too), or 160 steps per minute.
The second way you can figure out your cadence is by viewing the data provided by a running app after you go for a moderately easy run. Garmin Connect is a great app to use for this purpose. It typically clocks a lap for you automatically every mile. When you’re done running, open the app, pull up the data for your run, click on the lap icon and if you’re doing this on your phone, turn it sideways and scroll all the way to the right, and you’ll see your average cadence for each lap.
For example, here’s my Garmin data from a recent 3.2-mile run:
You can see my average cadence (in spm or steps per minute) for each lap and also for the entire run. Garmin also shows me my stride length, which is nice too.
A 10% Increase in Cadence Can Knock Nearly a Minute Off Your Pace!
Did you know that if you work on increasing your cadence, you will start to run faster? For example, let’s say your average cadence is 160 steps per minute, and your average stride length is one meter. In this example, your average running pace per mile would be 10:03. (I did the calculation for you!)
Now…just increasing your cadence by 10%, or going from 160 to 176 steps per minute, would speed your pace up by nearly a minute, to 9:08 per mile!
How to Increase Your Cadence
Many experts suggest that to increase your cadence, you should do so gradually, over a period of a few weeks. And the best way to do this is by running to a known beat. Some people run to a metronome or a drum beat, like the marines do when they march. But it’s much more fun to run to the beat of a song or music.
Once you know your comfortable running cadence, try to increase it by only a few steps per minute each week. Do this for a few weeks, and you should start to run at the higher cadence naturally. You can even add some quick speed bursts of very fast cadence into one or two of your runs per week. This will help you get there even faster.
A Free & Easy Way to Monitor Your Cadence
I’ve created a whole bunch of playlists on Spotify that were built around specific cadence ranges to help you monitor and improve your cadence. All you need to access them is a free Spotify account, your phone, and a pair of headphones. Here’s an example playlist, but there are a lot more on my artist page for Jupiter Running Girl. And while you’re at it, click that Follow button to be notified when new playlists go up.
A 165-170 Playlist of Pop Music
- Shawn Mendes: I Don’t Even Know Your Name
- Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar: Bad Blood
- Demi Lovato: Two Pieces
- Jason Mraz: Best Friend
- Kelly Clarkson: Honestly
- Beyoncé: XO
- Norah Jones: Turn Me On
- Jonas Brothers: Poison Ivy
- Rihanna: California King Bed
- Jennifer Lopez: I’m Into You
If these artists don’t float your boat, fear not! I’ve got many different musical genres from which to choose, including Country, Rap, and Heavy Metal. And of course, they’re broken down into several different cadence ranges too. You should be able to find a good one to suit your needs.
And if you’re already comfortable running at that magic cadence of 180 steps per minute, you can also access my 180 BPM running albums there too. And you can also find them on Apple iTunes and all other online music distribution sites.
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Drop a comment in the box below and let me know what your cadence is and what you’re planning on doing to improve it.
Keep running to the beat!