Stride Rate and Cadence

The capitalist response as evident in the recent release of the New Balance Minimus and the FiveFingers suggests the debate on running minimalism has entered mainstream running culture.

–Side note: This acceptance is in part a product of Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run. Whether or not it’s a good thing for the masses to ditch the running shoes their bodies have adapted to because of a National Best Seller, the book is a well-written fascinating look into barefoot running cultures and ideas.

— Side side note: McDougall discusses the topic of the persistence kill, where the the human adaption of perspiring is used to literally run animals to death. I can’t think of many things more manly than that.

Stride rate is a key component of minimalist running. Some experts say that a cadence of around 180 steps per minute is ideal. They note that elite marathoners often have stride rates over 200 spm. In contrast, most of the general running public have lower stride rates.

I decided to experiment with quicker turnover (and consequently a stride that is more “natural” as barefoot proponents promote). Here were my findings:

  • Feedback: my breathing and lactate levels (ie what Mark Wetmore would call sensory data) while running at tempo pace were  more stable than running with a longer stride.
  • Efficiency: Larger muscle groups (quads, hamstrings) did more work, whereas smaller ones like calves did less. Taking the load off the calves for the majority of the tempo gave me more speed in the last mile.
  • Cadence: predicating your pace on a constant cadence with varying stride length is mentally easier to maintain. Trying to run with a fixed stride length and varying tempo is much harder. Finding the beat, as in music, is a huge part of getting in the zone.

Applications: The idea of faster cadence could be applicable in start-ups and school, where decisions are based on informal feedback from customers/teachers.

  • Feedback: listen to the customer/teacher early and often, continually mold the product/school work to what they want. Only coming down for a stride every once in a while, you may end up somewhere off-track.
  • Efficiency: work by making small, calculated decisions rather than making long steps. Like they teach us in engineering school, break difficult problems into smaller one until they are solvable.
  • Cadence: getting stuff done feels good.

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