Your Running speed is dependent upon two factors: stride length and stride rate (also called turnover or cadence). Increase either factor and you'll run faster.
Recent research shows that increasing your stride rate may also decrease your injury risk.
Findings reported by Dr. Reed Ferber in the July/August issue of Running Room Magazine supports this conclusion. Ferber reports on studies involving recreational runners conducted by Dr. Bryan Heiderscheit from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The runners first ran at their regular speed. Then, they increased their stride rate by 5% and then by 10%. Heiderscheit concluded that increasing turnover by 10% reduces loading to the hip and knee joints, which may help prevent and treat leg injuries.
A second study by Heiderscheit showed that increasing stride rate also increased activation of both the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius during swing phase. Glutes not firing properly is a factor in hamstring injuries. Therefore, increased glute activation should help prevent and treat injury.
His third study showed increasing turnover by 10% also reduce knee joint forces, which could help prevent and treat patellofemoral pain (runner's knee).
What stride rate should you aim for?
Ferber writes that the holy grail of 180 bpm may not be so holy! The 180 figure was based upon observational research of Olympians done by Jack Daniels and others. Dr. Ferber's sampling of over 3500 runners show that recreational runners have a stride rate of 165-168 bpm and competitive runners have a stride rate of 168-171 bpm.
Could Ferber's subjects run faster by increasing cadence to 180 bpm? Maybe. Regardless, increasing your turnover by 10% will you help decrease injury risk and run faster.
Measure your stride rate
During an easy paced run, after warming up, time yourself running at your natural pace for 60 seconds. Count the number of times that your left (or right) foot touches the ground. Then, multiply by two.
If your turnover is significantly less than 180, don't despair. You'll be striding right in only 3-4 weeks.
Eight years ago, after a layoff from serious straining, Bennett's turnover was a sluggish 144 steps per minute. Less than a month later, his turnover was a spritely 170, resulting in faster running.
One simple way to increase your stride rate
Bennett increased his turnover from 144 to 170 (an 18% increase) by modifying one easier paced run per week.
Here's how to do it: for 60 seconds, keep your upper body relaxed and imagine yourself running on hot coals. You'll touch the ground lightly, minimize your contact time with the ground, slightly shorten your stride and consciously increase your turnover. Pump your arms a bit faster and your legs will move faster in unison. Count the number of times that your left (or right) foot touches the ground. Then, multiply by two.
Repeat once every 10 minutes. Towards the end of the run, see if you can maintain your faster cadence.
The second week, count your cadence once every 5 minutes. Towards the end of the run, see if you can maintain your faster stride rate.
Your new habit will take root in 3-4 weeks.
Many of you who are racing this fall have just started seriously training for your race. Now is the ideal time to incorporate this workout into your schedule. In 3-4 weeks, your faster turnover will become the “new you”.
Faster stride rate = faster running, faster racing and reduced injury risk.
© 2016 Savvy Runner Inc.
Bennett Cohen and Gail Gould are the Founders and Presidents of the International Association of Women Runners. For access to resources to help you reach your goals for running and racing, visit www.IAWR-Connect.com..