Other than listening to a metronome while running, does anybody have any tips on what can I do to monitor my stride rate so that I know I am around 180 spm? One way would be to find songs that are ~180 bpm and work with that.
If you're serious enough about running to worry about your cadence, you might consider getting a watch and some associated hardware to help you measure things more precisely. That'll keep you from having to listen to the same five songs over and over, and might also help you find a more natural cadence that is close to "ideal" without necessarily hitting every beat. In other words, a cadence of 93 might feel more comfortable for you, but will eventually bring you off-beat if you stick with 90 BPM music.
DC Rainmaker talks a bit about cadence in his review of the Garmin ANT+ foot pod, which is what I've personally used for the last two years without any complaints whatever. I use it with the reasonably-priced FR60, though any ANT+-compatible watch will do. Polar also makes a line of foot pods, though I can't vouch for those.
This is quite an old answer, but just to add a couple of remarks which might be interesting.
First, the "180 steps per minute" metric is attributed to Jack Daniels, a known running coach which was training runners for the 1984 Olympics. In his reports, he stated that of the 46 olympic runners he studied, only one took less than 180 spm (176 spm). On the other hand, he noted that he never met a beginner runner in his career who ran over 180.
So there are two important caveats here:
The 180 spm he mentions is not a target number, it's actually a minimum number (after discading that one "176" outlier) at which these professional runners were running, at "olympic paces" (around 6 meters per second, or 2.8 minutes per km).
It's impossible to make a fair comparison of olympic runners' cadences with those of beginner runners. I.e. an olympic runner might keep a 3 min/km pace at 200 spm, while a beginner runner might not be able to run faster than 6-7 min/km, so it's not surprising that the cadence would be lower for beginners.
As seen in this article1, stride frequency varies from 150 spm (during light jogging, ~3 m/s), through 180 spm (olympic race pace, ~6 m/s), and goes way up to 230 spm (at 9 m/s). The chart can also be seen in this article by Alex Hutchinson (multiply stride/sec with 120 to get spm):
So target cadence of 180 at all running paces, is a very poor suggestion IMHO. It simply isn't supported by the data. Yes, it might be the most optimal cadence while running 5k in 13 minutes, and yes, there are many people who will tell you that you can jog at 180 spm, but if research is showing that olypmic athletes aren't doing this, then perhaps it isn't the most efficient way to jog after all.
Whether slow jogging at 180 spm can reduce injuries, that's a different story. There are claims around the internet that slower cadences result in "heel striking" and that 180 spm jogging can reduce knee problems, but I wasn't able to find actual research supporting this (and since olympic athletes seem to "ignore this advice", I am not so sure about its merits).
1 Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements, Weyand et al., Journal of Applied Physiology
When you're learning what that stride feels like, songs can definitely help. Look for songs at 90 BPM (so, you'll take two steps per beat of the song). There's a lot of hip/hop, rock, etc. in this range. True 180BPM is super fast happy hardcore techno.
Eventually, you'll just know what it feels like.
Stride rate is not necessarily optimal at 180 strides per minute. If you want to run like Usain Bolt, try 257 strides per minute.
See this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3gKkq6jjss
Here Usain Bolt takes 41 strides in 9.58 seconds. This equates to 257 strides per minute.
Therefore I would assume that stride rate would depend on one's goals for running.
Try Eagles: take it easy - after adjustment = 176 spm Miranda lambert - white liar. = 186 spm
I use adobe audacity to adjust songs close to the 180 spm while keeping tone and pitch
Its more difficult to use a beat every third step, 60bpm (getting 180spm). More songs with 60bpm (r&b) but the 3-2- left, 3,2,right sequence i find difficult.
Cadence can be improved by using the right equipment, doing drills and then running to the right rhythm.
- Be barefoot or use very thin sole shoes with minimal heel-toe drop. (This means the heel and toe are at the same level). This is critical as it helps you feel the foot more completely as well as allows you to load the foot on the midfoot.
- Bounce in place. Feet should be shoulder width apart. Alternate shifting the weight from one foot to the other. Do not use a metronome. Simply bounce and after 100 repetitions you will find a a natural frequency in the bounce.
- Single foot hop in place. Hop on one foot and try landing on the same spot. Again don't use a metronome.
- High knees with a bounce.
- Kick with a bounce
Running to the right rhythm:
Use the Podrunner Podcast (its free, but do try to donate). Each podcast is about an hour long and DJ Steve Boyett specifies the BPM for each Podcast.
The following podcasts are a few of the excellent ones:
- 180 BPM Rapid Transit
- 180 BPM Trendsetter
- 177 BPM Fastigium
- 173 BPM Among the Titans