How running cadence and stride length affects our run speed?


Stride length: The distance you cover on each stride is your stride length. A good running stride means you are using your body's energy efficiently and helping keep yourself injury-free. It could also mean an overall faster pace, which is excellent news for all of us. Many triathletes/runners make the mistake of overstriding, meaning they extend their foot too far in front of their body, thinking this will increase their speed. However, overstriding could lead to heavy wear on your muscles, sore knees, and you are more prone to other injuries. A stride that is too long can also be difficult to maintain over extended mileage; the body has to work harder to stride further, leading to an inefficient output of energy and increased fatigue. When running, the take-off/push-off phase (in which your foot pushes off the ground to propel your body forward) affects the length of your stride. Should you consciously increase and adjust your stride length? NO, NO and NO!!! Research shows that consciously increasing the stride length in order to run more efficiently is not just a waste of time – it will more than likely decrease your running efficiency. Your brain (brainstem: the central vestibular system with sensory integration from proprioception, vision, vestibular system and hearing) will automatically determine your ideal stride length and will automatically increase it with better running form. A variety of exercises, hill sprints, resistive running, stair running, plyometric jumping drills, knee lifts and heel kicks, can boost lower-body power and flexibility, increase push-off strength, and improve the length of your stride. Cadence: Running cadence is the number of steps per minute. Our running speed is connected to our cadence and stride length. Technically, it is the number of times our foot hits the ground. In the past, the running cadence trend and recommendation was 180 steps/minute, but it is not as simple as it seems. Our running cadence is affected by our biomechanics, stride length, and running form. Over time our running form, running cadence, and stride length is “saved” in a neuromuscular pattern and becomes our “signature” stride. To change it becomes difficult and takes time, but nevertheless it is worth to work on it if there are deficits in the stride, not only to become a faster runner also to reduce the risk of injuries. The average running cadence is 150-170. A cadence lower than 150-160 strides/minute usually shows an overstride in the runners. Runners who overstride, land with a heel strike that blocks the forward motion required for running, that means the hips and knee joints get a lot of impact on every step. Everyone runs differently, but a slightly faster cadence can help improve our running form, running pace and prevent injuries. Biomechanics and sports science recommend an average cadence of 160-180 for normal runs and 180-190 for fast runs, or up to 200 for super-fast marathon runners. I want to point out, these are recommendations and should be seen on a flat course!!! Conclusion: There are lots of factors to consider when increasing your stride length, but there is no optimal stride length or cadence. YOUR brain knows it best! Having proper form when running is essential in your performance. It can help you run faster with less stress on the body and reduces the risk of injury. For competitive runners, what they need to remember is that the stride lengths vary from one runner to another and their height. You can live with a standard to decent results of stride length. However, when your stride rate is under 160-180 steps each minute, you might need to work on applying a lighter and faster pace. If you ever wonder why men are quite faster than the women at every sprint distance, it is not about their stride rates. But what matters the most is the stride length. Do you have any comments, questions, and recommendations? Tell me! I love to hear from you!

References:

Rummers et all (2020) Physiological Predictors of Maximal Incremental Running Performance Da Rosa et all (2019) Landing-takeoff asymmetries applied to running mechanics: a new perspective for performance. The Motion Analysis Laboratory (2001) The Biomechanics of Running


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