With the suffocating heat of summer behind us, it's time to get back to an old friend, jogging. Throughout the fall you’ll find the streets in Chicago, New York, and Washington full of folks getting ready for their upcoming marathon. Heck, little ‘ole Greensboro had 8 ladies short of 4000 participants in the October 1st Women’s Only Breast Cancer Run.
Talk about Girls on the Go!
As consultants to a few of these runners, we’ve learned there are nearly as many different ways to train for these events as there are participants. But all things are relative, and “One man’s marathon is another man’s 10k.” Many factors play into how and why one trains differently than another. With all the variation, one factor seems consistent among those who do well: stride cadence.
Here’s what we tell folks about it:
Optimal stride cadence (or "turnover", as some call it) equals 180 strides/minute, more or less. The science of this thinking is that tendons allow for elastic recoil if cadence falls into this range, plus or minus 5 strides. Any faster and the muscles are moving faster than the tendons can recoil. Any slower, the same potential energy stored in the tendons is lost. This elastic recoil allows the muscles to work less, as proven by decreased oxygen consumption at 175-185 strides per minute (2007 (R)-Midgley, 2006-Conoboy, 2005-Dallam, 2004(R)-Saunders, 1994-Hamill, 1992-Martin, 1990-Kaneko, 1989-Cavanagh, 1982, Cavanagh, 1982-Power).
Heels are made for walking!
For your stride to reach optimal turnover, you should consider running on your mid-foot and not the heel-to-toe. That method was a “hit” (get it? haha) with many sadistic gym coaches in the mid 1900’s, but no more. Nowadays, we do drills like A-skips and high knees, barefoot running and my fav, jumping rope to strike up elastic recoil and improve cadence. Google: Evolution Running.
If the shoe fits…
And what up with those Five Finger Toe shoes? You guessed it. They promote
mid-foot ground striking position as well as condition the body from the feet up. All that EVA foam at the sole of your sneakers elevates the heel and forces the foot to strike the ground in front of the body’s center of mass (ouch!), not above it ( a-h-h-h!). EVA also slows communication between the ground and your foot’s sensory receptors, diminishing elastic recoil and increasing ground contact time. For this reason, folks are starting to favor shoes that are more level to the ground. Google: Newton Running Shoes.
The idea is to make as little work of running as possible. With optimal cadence our goal, the mid-foot, not heal, is the preferred ground striking position. Elastic recoil at the tendons means less braking, which means less impact and sweet stride turnover. So if you want to make it look easy like the Kenyans, stop resting on those heals and get your stride up to speed!