Our bodies love rhythms. We thrive on them. Our heartbeats, breath rate, and need for rest are all based on rhythms that occur naturally in the body. When your body has a rhythm to follow, it doesn't have to work as hard. It knows what to do and when to do it. One rhythm I'm aware of every time I run is my cadence, or the number of strides I take per minute.
When I first started working on running cadence with a metronome in 1995, I had a profound experience. I fell easily into good running form. The rhythm of the metronome kept my stride short, even, and totally in sync with my arms. My body moved in a smooth and unified way. It was one of the major "aha" moments in my running career.
Benefits of Quick, Consistent Cadence
- Less stress on your leg joints and muscles. Most runners run upright with a long stride, causing them to land on their heels with their feet out in front of their bodies. This overworks the legs, as they have to pull themselves forward with each step. Heel striking also causes impact to ankles, shins, knees and hips, and is a primary cause of running injuries. When you have a quicker cadence, your stride becomes shorter, making it easier for your feet to land underneath you, which reduces heel striking, saves your knees, and helps prevent other injuries.
- Improved efficiency and less fatigue. Most runners spend too long in the "support stance," or landing phase of their stride. During that time, your leg muscles are engaged and supporting your body weight. When you have a quick foot turnover, you're supporting your weight for less time. You expend less energy and become more efficient—two benefits that are especially important during those long marathon-training runs and on race day.