During the 1984 Olympics a famous running coach and researcher named DR. Jack Daniels (No relation to the liqueur) made some remarkable observations while counting strides distance runners took during the race. He found that almost all the top performers maintained roughly 180 or more steps per minute. In other words, those who took less steps tended not to do as well.
Based on Jack Daniels research, the optimal cadence for racing is 180 strides per minute. That isn’t to say that every run should be at 180 strides, but during a race you should try to aim towards that number.
So how does one get started, well at the beginning of course.
Establish Your Baseline
The first thing to do is establish what your cadence (strides per minute) is. Most people will need a way to record stride count (paper or electronic device) or a friend to record counts. The easiest way is to perform a test either on a treadmill or on the track.
Warmup for about 10 minutes – Just perform the warmup as usual.
Proceed to run at a long run pace, marathon pace, half marathon pace, 10k pace and 5K pace. After each pace change, slow back down and record your cadence. Now the easiest way to count your pace is to just count every time your foot strikes the ground for 30 seconds and then multiply that by 2. Another way is to just count either the right or left foot for 30 seconds and multiply that by 4. Whatever means you use to calculate your strides, the result is now your baseline for that particular pace.
If your testing on a track record the distance it takes you to go a minute with each pace change.
Set A Target
Set a target cadence for each pace in your repertoire (Long Run, Marathon and so on). Once the baseline is established, you can play around with increasing your cadence. For example if your long run training cadence is 160 strides per minute, try increasing it by 5% or to 168. Each target pace will probably have a different target stride value, but the magic number for race pace is roughly 180.
Drills To Boost Your Cadence
What workouts drills improve stride turnover? Downhill Sprints, Quick Turnover and Fartleks. These drills can be performed after one of your easy run days.
Downhill Sprints – Find a hill that isn’t too steep and is about 150 to 200 meters long. Downhill running improves your turnover and forces you to run faster. Perform 5-8 downhill sprints where you get up to full speed by the time you reach the bottom. Remember maintain good form by lowering your arms and leaning downhill.
Quick Turnover – Is all about taking as many steps as you can within a certain distance while moving forward. You can also include high knees or kickbacks when performing these drills. Try to keep the distance between 10-20 meters.
Fartlek – These are short Fartleks. I like to do a pyramid type setup. 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes and back down at or near 5k race pace with a 30 second recovery between each. Count steps during the fast portions to see how close you’re coming to your target cadence.