I am a shitty runner. No doubt about it. My technique sucks, and I know it.
That’s why I bought myself a smartwatch to improve my training.
One of the metrics it tracks is the number of steps taken per minute (spm).
During my first runs, I averaged 160 spm, and the graph looked very bouncy.
The statistic made me curious, so I looked up what cadence actually means.
Professional athletes run at 180 steps per minute.
Taller athletes are a little below that, roughly at 175 bpm. Both have in common that the graph looks very constant.
So I knew that I was way off this number, and I thought about how I could improve this metric. The first thing I tried was counting and using a timer during running. This was very difficult, and I could not sustain it for a long-distance because I lost track of counting.
Luckily, I found the solution to my problem in my childhood.
Back then, I played the piano and had one tool: a metronome. Without further ado, I looked up a metronome app in the App Store. The result: Nothing less but astonishing.
The first runs were super weird, and I only did short distances. The experience was counter-intuitive because I had to decrease my stride length drastically. Also, it was very challenging to hit the numbers because it felt so much quicker turning over my legs. At the same time, I was super slow, running at 7:30–8:00 per kilometer.
Because it was a completely new experience, I only ran for a couple of hundred meters with the metronome, stopped, and checked the graph. I gradually increased distance until one day I pressed the play button and went for it at around 175 bpm.
I was 18 seconds faster per kilometer than usual — or in other words, I ran the 10k three minutes faster. The crazy thing is I did not even feel exhausted.
By now, I have trained three months with the metronome and my running has improved significantly. I know that it is also because of the training I put in, but overall my running feels better and my joints hurt less, especially after a long distance.
Here is the downside: the metronome thing is cool, but it also kills your brain. During the summer, I did a long run (3 hours) with constant “beep, beep, beep” in my ear. Please don’t ask about my mental state after the run.
Now, I am not a professional coach, and this was just a self-experiment, so I am curious:
What is your experience with cadence? Do you track it? Any other ideas on how to improve it?
Please comment or ping me on WhatsApp, I am happy to chat.