Running cadence is often thought as a glimpse into overall run form; however, we see run form as a dependent factor based off of other, more important, factors in your run form. Most can tell you that their running cadence should hover around 90 steps per leg per minute, but they’re not sure why. Let’s start there.
Your cadence gives a glimpse into your run form, but does not warrant direct “cadence work”. A higher cadence is indicative of a shorter step length on the front & back end of your stride. A huge benefit of a higher cadence is the contribution of the “mysiums” and elasticity of muscles. What are they mysiums [my-see-ums] you say? It’s a term referring to the 3 layers the cover your muscles. Their importance matters because they are highly elastic when stretched rapidly.
Your cadence gives a glimpse into your run form, but does not warrant direct “cadence work”.
When you quickly stretch a muscle then contract it, the muscle can produce more force than contracting the muscle alone.
Want a real example of this? Jump. Notice how you lower your body FIRST then explode upward? The lowering of the body puts these mysiums on stretch (stores energy) to help you launch upward.
Now let’s talk a little physics… when you store energy for a prolonged period of time, what happens? It loses its energy as the surrounding environment “zaps” it away.
So let’s take the above example again… squat down to jump, but pause for 10 seconds. Even in this short period of time you will lose major vertical on your jump. The stored energy in the mysiums is lost as the ground and surrounding tissues absorb this stored energy.
Back to running… As our body loads through midstance (foot is directly under your body) the mysiums are put on stretch and the muscles are loaded. The longer we stay there (slower cadence) the more energy “leakage” we have and a diminished push off force is applied.
Not what you normally think of when discussing cadence. Feel free to wow your friends and bring up the “mysiums” on your next run. Now, there are other benefits to a higher cadence (less braking, decreased compressive forces, etc.), but why do I say it doesn’t warrant direct observation? Your cadence is directly related to your running form.
Here’s a test, can you increase your cadence without running faster? Try it on a treadmill to control for speed. If you can’t raise your cadence without moving forward on the treadmill, you’re doing it wrong (sorry). Your cadence SHOULD NOT depict your run speed, your effort should. Whether it’s a 10 minute mile or a 6 minute mile, your cadence should be relatively the same for any given speed. You need to change your stride to improve your cadence. Instead of staring at your Garmin screen, start working on run mechanics and run form– land with the foot under your body.
Your cadence should not depict your run speed, your effort should
If you don’t reach way out in front with your foot, you cut off a significant “mysium dampening” portion of your stride, improving your cadence, speed, & efficiency. Get on and off those feet like you’re on hot coals!