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Running cadence vs Heart Rate

With the end of my first season of triathlons (sprint) I am foucssing on improving my running - need to run faster basically! I'm reading Joe Friel's 'The Training Bible' in which he says a higher cadence of around 85-90 is what I should be aiming for but also that in the Base Period of training i should be going for long steady runs to build up my aerobic endurance. A few years ago I worked out my max heart rate at 195 but whilst running at this cadence I got my heart rate up to 185! For steady aerobic training it should be down in the 60's or 70's I would guess.

So here's the dilema - a higher cadence to me is just running faster - unless I drop my stride rate even further and i don't consider it to be overly long. Seems pretty obvious - if I want to run faster - then, well, um... run faster? But then if I should be training at a lower heart rate I should reduce my cadence to such a level that my heart rate comes down?

Any advice out there? What should I focus on cadence and just hope to get fitter or heart rate and then steadily up the cadence?


  • You don't reduce your cadence, but reduce your stride length. The the idea is that you run at a cadence of between 80-90 steps per minute per foot (so 180 steps per minute), which ties in with cycling at the same cadence (80-90 rpm). When you want to pick up the pace, then you lengthen the stride rate.

    So, 180 steps at 1m per step, = 180m/minute, or 5:33/km, or 8:53/mile, 27:45/5km
    180 steps at 1.2m per step = 216m/minute, or 4:38/km, or 7:25/mile, 23:10/5km,
    180 steps at 1.5m per step = 270m/minute, or 3:42/km, or 5:55/mile, or 18:30/5km

    Base training will feel slow, but it will pay off. Some say that if you are out of breath then you've gone too fast. You need to teach the body to fuel itself from the fat reserves, which there about 50,000 calories worth, good enough for about 1,000 hours of running
  • Ok I understand that - so I need to keep chopping my stride until I run at that cadence but with a much lower heart rate? I would imagine that will feel quite strange as I will consciously be running against what feels 'normal' for me. So speed is not determined by cadence but purely by stride length.

    So when i ran last I did:
    4.25miles in 33mins

    168 steps per minute (about 28 right foot strikes per 20seconds) thus equates to 1.2m per step. So I basically need to cut my stride down towards the 1m mark. In doing this I will run slower but at the same cadence and with my heart rate in the right zone! This is the complete opposite of what my body tells me when I start getting tired which is to run slower by slowing my cadence - I guess with practice I should be able to crack this though.

    Thanks for the advice
  • Speed isn't just affected by stride length, it is a combination of stride length and cadence. Change one, and it'll affect your speed. What you really need to do is find a cadence that feels natural, and then adjust stride length. However, it will start to go wrong as you tire, as cadence will slow, and stride length will reduce so you will get slower. However, once you get the hang of it, you can keep a constant speed for quite a while, only changing speed on hills, generally be reducing stride length, but maintaining cadence.

    Oh, and take personal items with you on the long runs, I was told that if you don't 'touch cloth' on some long runs, then you aren't running long enough. Best be prepared
  • HarryDHarryD Posts: 425

    Triumphant is right about keeping a high cadence and adjusting stride length to manage speed.

    Rather than focus on actual stride length simply lift you foot less high and don't lean forward so much - this should feel easier & more natural rather than simply chopping your stride.

    Obviously this is based on an efficient running style

    Hope this helps

  • Thanks guys - I'll give it a go next time I'm out - I also read that bending the trailing run more as you run helps with the stride lenght as well? Also do you know if there any gadgets that can help pace you - stopwatch perhaps where you can set a tempo that beeps at you ?
  • Just use a metronome. If you've got an iPhone, there is an app
  • HarryDHarryD Posts: 425

    Lifting your foot flexes the knee and so brings your leg forward. By lifting you foot you & bring it directly up towards your butt then let it fall under gravity - it should automatically land directly under your centre of gravity . If it ends up looking a bit like the 'butt kick/ heel flick' running drill don't worry. As soon as it hits the ground lift it off again. That will get your cadence up and make you lighter on your feet. Don't try & push off with your 'trailing' leg it will slow you down.

    A trailing leg just slows you down & trying to push off doesn't actually give any significant forward momentum. Forward momentum is obtained by leaning the body forward from the ankle and 'falling' which is then broken by your foot striking, & recoiling from, the ground to provide support. Note that is leaning forward not bending* forward - bending gives you a 'trailing' leg which slows you down. The more you lean forward the faster you go and you will find your foot lifts higher as a natural reaction - this of course flexes your knee further. Your arms simply swing to balance out imperfections in leg action rather than 'driving' the legs.

    Soon you'll be running like a Brownlee


    *core engaged = lower abdomen pulled back & slightly up towards spine, neck neutral. looking towards horizon, shoulders and arms relaxed, hands relaxed.
  • Ok so I tried running today - a 10k gentle run with the increased cadence and shorter stride length - trying to kick up at the back and lean forward from the ankles. Ended up with the worst run of the year - serious thigh pain that ended up with me walking the last mile back - coincidence? I think I'll stick to running the way I always have and just try and get fitter!

    Seriously demoralised now - maybe need a rest before starting training again - one of those runs where everything hurt - back, thighs, hip, soleus!!
  • HarryDHarryD Posts: 425

    Not surprised you had a torrid time. As you got the idea of high cadence running from The Training Bible have a look at the rest of the section on skills (2nd edition). I quote:

    ".. the body's adjustment to such changes may take months to fully realise since many slowly occuring adaptions are required to the nervous system and muscles... at first economy may even worsen." Page 158

    "Complex skills are best learned when the desired movement pattern is broken down into manageable units that are mastered individually before gardually combining them into more complex movements." Page 158

    The technique changes I wrote about can be found in the two sections that follow the one on "High Stride Rate".

    Wholesale changes to any technique are bound to prove disatrous as you have discovered never mind one such as running which is so high impact. Changes need to be gradual & focussed. For example in an hours run there may only be 10 x 20seconds of foot raising focus, next time it may be a set of 15. Even with gradual changes expect some discomfort and short term drop in speed.

    There is no magic bullet to running (or swimming or cycling) faster & only focussing on say stride rate will lead you down a dark dead end. Apply the whole section on running skills and you will get better.

    Don't give up so easily on trying to be more efficient. If you need further reading on technique improvement please post again.

  • Thanks for posting again Harry - yes does look like I've gone for it in too big a bite - maybe need to take it easy to start with as you say. Def when u think about going up to near 90 strikes a minute from say 75 is 15 more heel strikes per minute over 10k is a lot of extra work for my muscles - no wonder there was a mutiny! Will def break it down into more manageable chunks next time. Thanks again - feel more positive now.
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