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OK, so I have just gotten back into running and am aiming for a quicker 5km pace. My current time per km is at 5:28, and I am aiming towards getting below a 5 minute pace as soon as possible.

So what I am currently doing is running ~3 times per week. Once focusing on intervalls, once on trying to increase my cadence, and once on "just running".

But I am wondering about the cadence part. Everything I read seems to tell me that the best efficency is at 170-180, and that getting to those levels will help with reducing injury and increase my speed. My current "natural" cadence is around 160, and everytime I push myself up to ~175, not only does it feel unnatural, but it also feels much more taxing and I can't run as far. It almost always feels like I need to take a break and just run at 160 for a while (not needing to reduce my pace, so just increasing stride length)

So I am wondering if perhaps I am doing something wrong? Is it normal for it to be more taxing to run at a higher cadence, and is it at all worth it in the pursuit of increasing my pace?

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Don't worry so much about cadence. Everyone likes to point at 180, but world records have been set anywhere from 165 - 215 or so. Your body has a natural cadence that it will run.

If you want to run faster, your answer is pretty much just run more. Don't worry too much until you are running probably in the 30km and up range per week. Cross country training, it's not uncommon for a college level runner to be doing 160km a week. 3x a week is ok for general fitness, but not if you want to start improving your times.

For beginner or lower volume runners, I generally recommend trying to get to running 6x a week, in a 3-2-1 pattern. 1 long run (say 6k), 2 medium runs (4k each) and 3 shorter runs (2k each). Then every few weeks, bump those up. The medium length runs are always 2x the length of the short run, and the long run is 3x the short. So a week might look like 2k, 4k, 2k, 4k, 2k, 6k, rest day. You may find it easier to do your runs by time rather than distance, especially when you increase and are at odd lengths.

You will also find that as your training goes up, your running economy gets better and your cadence naturally increases.

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    From a physio perspective, I'd say that is true as long as you do not get signs of structural overburden. So yes, optimal cadence is individual, you still might want to look at cadence as soon as you ruled out that your pain (tendinopathy primarily) is not due to having increased your overall volume too much too soon. Point standing is that you should not care much about cadence as long as you a) don't have pain and/or b) don't link your breath to steps or get enough oxygen as is. Commented Feb 20 at 21:31
  • @PhilipKlöcking - All excellent points.
    – JohnP
    Commented Feb 21 at 13:24
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    The last paragraph matches my experience and I also run 3 times a week (30-40k). I've been running for about 18 months and my cadence is now 170-180 and it has drifted there from 150-160 without making any specific effort to increase it - it just happens as you run faster. It is rather lower when jogging in zone 2. Commented Feb 24 at 9:47

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