Improving Cadence to Run Faster

Good cadence for runners is all-important, to improve running performance (pace), and also to increase running economy and reduce injury risk. Runners have various options available to them to try to develop their cadence further, including:

- Running drills

- Interval training

- Pace Optimizer

- Running to music

1. Running drills

These are used to improve neuromuscular recruitment and include a series of 'high knees' skips, ’fast feet’ and ’heel-to-butt’ drills as well as single/double leg hopping exercises.

'High knees' drill

This is a continues movement which consists of 6 main coaching points - 1) 'standing tall' position; 2) neutral pelvis; 3) knee drive up 4) lift of the opposite arm during knee action- feeling of 'arms pulling legs up'; 5) landing with each foot under hips; 6) quick action.

'High knees and kick' drill

To perform this drill effectively, the individual has to: 1) stay tall; 2) maintain a neutral pelvis position; 3) drive the knee-high, followed by foot kick and a sweep back; 4) use opposite arms to get the momentum; 5) land the foot under hips.

'Heel to butt' drill

This dynamic movement involves 1) a quick action; 2) lifting the foot in a straight line; 3) bringing one heel to your buttocks; 4) driving of the opposite arm.

'Fast feet' drill

To perform this drill, it is crucial to ensure that: 1) hip, knee and ankle all extending upwards; 2) you are focusing on fast feet not speed; 3) there is a brief ground contact; 4) landing takes place on the forefoot, under the hips.

2. Interval training

Interval training describes a workout that involves short to moderate bouts of relatively high-intensity exercise interspersed with slower recovery periods. Intervals are typically used by runners as a way to improve their cardiorespiratory abilities, which further helps to delay the onset of fatigue when adapted to the context of a longer run. The main principle behind interval sessions is that they should be of a shorter distance but faster pace.

Because interval ‘efforts’ are typically performed at a higher than normal pace, they will also require a higher than normal cadence and will condition the neuromuscular system to accommodate faster leg turnover. This effect can be magnified by running some of the efforts on downhill segments of a run.

The easiest way to start incorporating this type of training is by doing sessions with some downhill runs, with a focus on landing with your feet under your body with a flexing knee.

3. Pace Optimizer Workout

Pace Optimizer workout has been specifically designed to support runners to make pace improvements at their chosen distance through a focus on improvements in cadence and step length. The Pace Optimizer breaks a target pace down into the required cadence and step length ranges a runner will need to meet in order to make the desired pace target. NURVV Run provides these individual-specific ranges to the runner, and during the run gives real-time guidance to keep the runner “in range”. By meeting the cadence and step length targets the runner will by default have made the pace target. If on occasions the runner is struggling to make pace then the in-run feedback will notify them which of the two performance factors is dropping and the app’s post-run feedback will be able to direct the runner to some recommended strategies and resources to improve that factor. The app will also re-set their pace target if necessary, in order to keep them on track and motivated.

The recommendations for Pace Optimizer workout are always based on a runner’s previous performances and so these recommendations stay faithful to the runner’s current performance level and their default running style (cadence or step length dominant).

Pace Optimizer allows the runner to gradually progress their pace score upwards and nudges the required cadence and step length ranges upwards at the same time, allowing the runner to learn what is required from a technical point of view to make the next level of performance. Pace Optimizer workout can also be used to control the pace of an over-enthusiastic runner on their easy runs!

Pace Optimizer works great either as motivation to keep good technique during a distance run via the in-run cues or as part of specific technique development sessions executed as a series of intervals.

4. Running to music

Typically, runners have a slightly lower than optimum cadence, especially at the end of a run, which can have a detrimental effect on running performance. Running to music or beat is a great way for any type of runner to improve their technique and learn how to manipulate cadence and accommodate different speeds.

Music playlists are currently widely available online and allow to play a selection of songs with a certain number of beats per minute to help with maintaining specific cadence during runs. These can be easily used on phones or different devices once they are sync to a music app!

Alternatively, runners can also download one of the Metronome Apps onto their phones. The idea behind this is to allow the runner to set a certain beat and then receive a sound indication of when each foot should hit the ground, according to the value to the beat. This will be very useful in maintaining optimal cadence during a run regardless of any changes in your running pace.