To the Beat

My Chicago Marathon training has been anything but conventional. 

There has been little running and a lot of mountain climbing.  My dessert intake has been heavy, speed work-outs have been non-existent and any hill running was completely accidental.  So in the spirit of non-tradition, I decided to try something new today during my 20 mile peek week run: cadence control.  

I first read about running cadence a few years ago in the book Eat and Run by ultra marathoner, Scott Jurek, but I try not to make my running too structured or technical, so aside from measuring my cadence the next morning during my run in Central Park, I did nothing to adopt it as a running technique.  According to Jurek: 

The most common mistake runners make is overstriding: taking slow, big steps, reaching far forward with the lead foot and landing on the heel. This means more time on the ground, which means the heel hits the ground with more force on landing, creating more impact on the joints. Training at a stride rate of 85 to 90 is the quickest way to correct this problem. Short, light, quick steps minimize impact force and keep you running longer, safer. It also will make you a more efficient runner. Studies have shown that nearly all elite runners competing at distances between 3,000 meters and marathon distances are running at 85 to 90-plus stride rates.

Jurek, Scott; Friedman, Steve (2012-06-05). Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness (pp. 51-52). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Ninety and 180 strides per minute are often used interchangeably depending on whether you are counting the strides of one or both feet.  Runners who over stride, and thus make themselves more prone to injury, take fewer strides per minute.  You can measure your running cadence by finding a flat and straight stretch of road, getting into your normal stride groove and then counting the number of times your left foot hits the ground over a 30 second period.  Multiply by 4 (to factor in the other foot and the other 30 seconds) and you have your cadence.  So if your left foot hits the ground 35 times in 30 seconds, your running cadence is 140 strides per minute (30 x4= 140).  Runners who over stride typically have a cadence less than 160 spm.  The goal then, is to strive for as close to 180 spm as you can get (note: a jog will have a slower cadence).

To work on increasing your cadence without injuring yourself, you should incorporate it into shorter distances first and gradually work your way up.  Practicing on a treadmill (and not on your 20 mile peak week run!) might help at first since you can set an even pace.  Some people use a metronome set to 180 beats per minute (there's an app for that!) while others create playlists of songs that are 90 or 180 bmp.  There are a bunch of websites, like, where you can find songs of various bpm.  

So today I created a playlist of 90 and 180 bmp songs and set off!  I found that my body pretty naturally adjusted to the rhythm of the songs. Since I haven't been putting in my usual mileage, I was expecting to be dragging on my run, but I was energized, my pace felt more even and my legs took much longer to fatigue.  Coincidence?  Perhaps...but I think I may stick with this for the rest of my training!

What are your favorite 180 bmp songs?

Chicago Marathon Peak Week 20-miler!

Chicago Marathon Peak Week 20-miler!

Watermelon is one of my favorite post-run recovery foods. Check out my Instagram feed to find out why. 

Watermelon is one of my favorite post-run recovery foods. Check out my Instagram feed to find out why.