3 Ways Triathletes Can Improve Their Run Economy

What is Run Cadence?

Run cadence is the number of steps per minute an athlete takes while running. Cadence is typically measured by the number of times ONE foot hits the ground over a minute. Similar to cycling cadence, as you run, you should strive for a cadence of about 90. You may have noticed many elite marathoners appear to float along as they run, barely touching the ground, and at a cadence in the high 90s this is no surprise.

Run cadence is important for a couple reasons.

First, the higher your cadence the less amount of time your foot is on the ground. The less time your foot is on the ground, the less impact your body absorbs with each stride.

Second, cadence is the same as stride rate and stride rate multiplied by stride length equals speed.

Stride Rate x Stride Length = Speed

Most untrained athletes run at a cadence of about 80. Anyone can have a high cadence when sprinting or running fast, but most cannot sustain that pace. The trick here, is learning to increase your cadence (or turnover) when running slow or at a comfortable pace so that your heart rate does not spike. This takes practice and patience, but if you are diligent it WILL PAY OFF. Not only will your body thank you, but if you can increase your cadence by five while holding your heart rate steady, you'll be able to knock off 2 minutes (or more) over 10K.

You can easily check your cadence by counting the number of foot falls over 15 seconds and multiplying that number by four. Manually counting is a great place to start, but I often find this to be a misleading way to check your cadence. When athletes count their steps manually, more often than not they'll hit the target of 90 even if they'd normally never come close. As a result, I do believe this is a good method of training yourself to run at the proper rate, but in terms of checking and monitoring cadence I prefer using Garmin's foot pod, which counts for me. This way there's no cheating.

Another great tool to use while learning to run at a 90 cadence is a metronome. You can set the device to beep at 180 beats per minute. Each beep will represent a foot fall. I recommend running with it on first a few times and then alternate turning if ON and OFF throughout your run to "check in" to see if you're holding a 90 cadence. Remember, it is important to practice this while running at a slow comfortable rate. You must avoid increasing your pace in order to hit the proper cadence. The more you practice, the easier it will become.

More: What Makes a Good Triathlon Runner?

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