No matter what the distance, human biomechanics dictate that short, quick steps are the most efficient way to run. Over-striding, or reaching, means you’re trying to cover too much ground with each step. Running “tall”, with your steps landing under your hips, is the right way to run.
Your running cadence is the number of steps you take over a period of time. Understanding and working on your cadence will help you run more efficiently. This will allow you to expend less effort to go the same distance, OR, expend the same effort and run farther.
Whether you’re a casual or competitive runner, changing your cadence will take some effort. Like other habits in your life, you’ve probably run with the same cadence for thousands (millions?) of steps and minutes. To change this habit, you have to re-train your brain and neuromuscular pathways to utilize a different pattern.
HABIT CHANGE = DIFFERENT CHOICE x PRACTICE x TIME
Here’s a simple drill that will help. Before you get started, walk first, then warm up for 5 minutes doing some easy-effort jogging.
Jog in place focusing on taking light, quick steps and landing under your hips and on the middle part of the foot.
The goal is to run at a cadence of 180 steps per minute for both feet, or 90-ish per foot.
Next, assess your cadence while you’re running in place. You can do this by counting how many times your foot touches the ground in 30 seconds, then double it. OR, use a smart device like a step counter. Another option would be to run to the beat of a song that’s 180 beats per minute.
Once you’re at 90-ish, maintain that cadence, and start moving. Just lean slightly forward and stay tall, because it’s impossible to run your fastest if you’re bent over.
Run at that cadence for about 20 seconds, then walk and recover. Repeat the drill 3-4 times.
Add this to your weekly training routine and continue to reassess your natural cadence over time.