Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cadence dear Cadence

Okay, so I have been really looking at my run form for the past year. Part of this has been curiosity about running better and part about running more injury free. To this end I started creating a stride that was slightly more compact and more mid to fore foot.

Now I must say that I did not change my shoes in all of this. At least not in the beginning. I started this project in NB 880's with a 12mm drop, went to NB 890v2's with a 8mm drop, then to Merrill Road Access with a 0mm drop, back to the NB 890's and now onto Brooks Ghost2's with a 11mm drop. So yeah, all over the map. What were my findings as per how shoes affect my running? Nothing. I run very similarly in all of those shoes. What I do notice is that I like some cushion, at least at this point in my running career. So for now the Ghost and NB 890's will be my shoes of choice.

So we have all heard about this cadence thing and running. How a proper cadence will turn you into an Olympian over night. Well, maybe not an Olympian, but at least a much better and more natural runner. It certainly has been shown to me that when you take away a runners shoes, they do seem to naturally increase their cadence, so that does seem to indicate that it is a more natural way to run.

Of course up until recently, I never actually bothered checking my cadence out, I just knew that it was certainly fast now and I was getting fewer running related injuries. It wasn't until I went through a  running clinic called RE:201 (Running Economy 201) and was tested that I found out my running cadence was actually fairly high, in the 170's.  Also, other than a little stiffness in my shoulders, my form was pretty good as well. So hurrah for that training I did all last year.

During the testing though, Luke from Aerobics First had me run with a metronome set to 180. As is usually the case with people, I settled in on the metronome's pace and was comfortably running at 180 (or 90 if you only want to count one leg).

Even though my current running form seemed to be suiting me well, I was curious if upping my cadence even more, to a proper 180, would be any better. So I grabbed a MP3 metronome off the web and began to run. And I was running in a slow Zone 2. It felt incredibly weird moving along at a relatively slow 5:30 min km with my feet flying. But eventually it became quite comfortable. Now I am sure that once the MP3 was over and that I kept running my cadence probably changed slightly, but my feet did keep moving and it made me realize that I have been running properly while I run fast, but in no way was I running correctly slowly. And so much of run training is running slowly. So that meant all those long 20+ km runs I had been doing I had been plodding along and getting really sore for no reason. It was the mileage, it was the impact.

See (as I have read) think of it this way. Think how much force your legs and feet would hit with if you were running with a cadence of say 2. Then think how if you covered the same distance in 180 steps how each step would be light and quick. Your body just won't have to go through as severe an impact with each foot fall if your cadence is higher.

Now I have also read plenty about how you just need to let your body find its own cadence and not force it through the use of running aids, and I believe that is true. But I find that by getting into the right mindset during training, ie starting out with a metronome to help, you can will, over time, get into your right rhythm.

Word of caution, you will spike the heart rate and you will find your legs get tired quicker at first. But if you are like me, you will notice that they aren't sore. That after the tired goes away, you feel good.

So I will continue this journey, do some testing on me, and fill you in on my findings as the year goes on. Want to read more about cadence? Just Google it and go to town on the million websites you come across. Find something good to share? Let me know!

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