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To increase my cadence, I flex my hamstrings downward so as to prevent my feet from rising too much. Less vertical motion increases cadence, but my hamstring muscles sure feel funky when I do this.

Other than hamstring flexing, what are different ways to change cadence?

I think the benefits of higher cadence:

  • Running is both vertical and horizontal motion. The vertical motion does not get me moving forward. It is wasted energy. So, I focus on keeping feet low to the ground.
  • With each stride, I go upwards, then crash back to earth. The higher I go, the more wear and tear on my ankles, knees, hips. So, feet low to the ground.
  • With my feet so low to the ground, I don't cover much distance with each stride. Therefore, I need a high cadence.
  • And, with my feet so low, going fast, with weight forward, it'd be very easy to faceplant. No accidents so far.

On youtube, there is an awesome 20-min video about different running styles titled "Gliders vs Gazelles". I try to be a "glider".

  • Are you trying to run faster? Or just increase cadence? If just increasing cadence, why? More detail about what you are trying and why would be helpful. – JohnP Dec 3 '14 at 18:24
  • @JohnP To answer your question, I edited the original question. – davidge Dec 4 '14 at 0:07
  • Yeah, I've watched the gliders vs gazelles video. At the time the video was made, Crissie Wellington (the glider) was the dominant figure in women's ironman - never losing an ironman distance race. The current women's IM world champion is Mirinda Carfrae. She may be the most talented triathlete runner the sport has ever seen - men or women. She has a "gazelle" style. – klsoren Dec 4 '14 at 3:40
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I can sympathize with your desire to increase your running cadence. Several years ago I learned that most top mid/long distance runners have a cadence around 180 steps per minute (SPM). While the reason for this rate is outside the scope of this question, I will say that running economy is optimized for most trained runners at around 180 SPM.

I read this piece of trivia on a Sunday evening after I participated in a 5k race. I knew that my cadence was well below the 180 SPM rate. So, the next day (Monday), I ran another 5k and forced myself to run at 180 SPM. Surprisingly, I improved my 5k PR by 1 minute without any extra effort.

I now run at approx. 180 SPM without thinking about it, but for the first few months, it required conscious effort to maintain that rate.

Here are a few of the things that I did:

  • I shortened my stride.
  • I became a mid-foot striker instead of a heel striker. This became more natural for me when I shortened my stride.
  • I used the "second" counter on my watch to help me: At "00" I start counting every 3rd foot strike. After I reach a count of 30, I look down at my watch, which should also say "30". This is how I know that I am running at the desired 180 SPM.
  • I did other activities at my desired run cadence: Swimming "streamline kicking" on my back at the desired rate to strengthen hip muscles. Cycling at 90 petal strokes per minute. Both of these activities help reinforce the neuro-muscular pathways that activate the leg muscles. Eventually the repetition causes the neuro-muscular pathways to become ingrained so that you run at a high cadence naturally. When this adaptation occurs, your running economy will benefit.

  • Don't worry about running at 180 SPM if you are just jogging slowly. It will only go up to 180 SMP if I'm high Zone 2 or higher.

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  • cool stuff. A metronome app for my phone should let me hear when I should be striking the ground with each stride. I'll give it a try tomorrow. I'm sure that hearing a 180-spm beat will blow my mind. Right now, I can only do 165-spm max. – davidge Dec 4 '14 at 1:34
  • Setting it at 180 will seem fast, and be hard to follow. I suggest setting it at 90 and just counting every other foot strike. – klsoren Dec 4 '14 at 3:31
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    Both of y'all realize that 180 is not a magical cadence? That was taken by watching elite runners at race pace. My cadence varies from 150-180 depending on my pace, and I've been running close to 30 years injury free now. Arbitrarily forcing yourself to run at a specific cadence despite your pace is begging for injury. – JohnP Dec 4 '14 at 4:54
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This worked for me and so here it is.

Focus on keeping your feet beneath your hips. Or, to push your hips over your feet, whatever visualization works best for you. You should almost feel like your hips are leading the run, not your feet. THIS really helps in shortening your stride.

Optional but very helpful: wear minimal footwear or no footwear at all (warning: this must be done gradually if you're not used to it already. I mean very gradually). This helps in adopting a more natural stance, that is landing with your forefoot or midfoot. This is by the way not enough though and if you go bare or semi-barefoot by keeping a long stride you're going to get stress fractures. So, minimal footwear/barefooting helps a lotbecause of the much more natural feedback you get without those orthotics that are running shoes, but it is not the solution alone.

An higher cadence is just the consequence of a correct posture and form. That is, if you do short and proper strides, the only way to go as fast as you did when you made longer strides is by making more steps in the same amount of time then. Quite obvious. BUT, higher cadence, as above and again, will be simply the consequence of that. Don't focus in the higher cadence itself as the primary objective, but rather on the quality of your movement and your running will be more effective and healthy; and cadence will automatically increase as the natural consequence. If you focus on the cadence alone you may end up achieving it without a proper form. Again, cadence is the consequence of the glider style not the objective.

Source: own experience with barefooting/natural running by studying, trying, and erring.

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