This principle is what will make the biggest difference. This is the solution to the overstride, which could be the leading biomechanical cause of running related injury. Let me tell you a story from Daniels’ Running Formula page 93:
In 1984 Jack Daniels (a noteworthy American exercise physiologist who pioneered a lot of running research back in the day and continues to make great contributions) and his wife went to the Olympics in Los Angeles and they counted how many steps runners were taking from the 800 meters up through the marathon. They found that 800 meters runners had the fastest cadence, and the fastest leg turnover, and that the 1500 runners had the second fastest turnover. Here’s the fascinating part: from 3000 meters through the marathon, males and females, were all right around 180 steps per minute. So you have a 1.86 mile race, a 3.1 mile race, a 6.2 mile race and a 26.2 mile race and all the runners are running at about 180 steps. The only variation was that the shorter women took a few more steps per minute than the larger men.
Some have argued that it is unwise to recommend a certain number of steps for everyone. The reason for this is because everyone is different, there’s no one-size fits all number of steps to take. However, it is my experience that for most runners, training at 180 steps per minute is the single most effective way to improve.
Running at 180 steps per minute does a few things for you:
1. It forces your foot to land a lot closer to directly underneath your body/center of mass.
2. It cuts down the amount of unnecessary time spent in the air, making you faster. If you examine the jumping sports such as long jump, high jump, triple jump, pole vault, basketball etc. you’ll see right before take-off there’s a heavy heel strike in front of the body that takes the horizontal momentum and converts it into vertical momentum for optimal body lift. Guess what you DON’T want to do over and over again when you’re long distance running? You don’t want to travel any higher than you ABSOLUTELY have to. The longer you spend in the air, the slower your overall time will be because you’re wasting energy and time traveling and sailing through the air.
3. It prevents injuries caused by excessive, repetitive pounding. The higher you go, the harder you fall. If you are traveling high into the air (or at least higher than you should be) that means you’re landing on the ground with more force, which will eventually lead to injury. That is one of the reasons for my frequent of injuries in high school. The combination of improper running form and overtraining can be devastating.
Three ways to keep your cadence at 180 steps per minute:
1. Instead of counting out 180 steps per minute, you can count out steps on one leg/foot for 20 seconds. Ideally you should be at 30 steps per one leg per minute. If you’re taking fewer steps than that, shorten your stride a little and recount.
2. Go to http://www.bpmdatabase.com/search.php and put “180” in the bpm search. That will give you several songs at 180 beats per minute.
3. My personal favorite: Use a metronome or a metronome app on your phone or other device you may run with. Set it at 180 [bpm] and then one foot hits the ground on every beat. I admit it can get monotonous and mundane, but there’s something zen and focus-like that happens when you get in the metronome beat zone.
This could change your life.
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