Cadence represents the number of steps (or rpm) rotations per minute in cyclical sports. Most applications and impacts it has in running and cycling where it emphasis efficiency and economy. It also found use in swimming. For all of three sports for a long time there are devices that very precisely measure cadence. Cadence is characteristic of each athlete, and every athlete, according to his technique, has an optimal cadence which enables him to perform the most economical execution of the action, physical activity. But definitely there is a certain scope for all athletes who are the most effective cadence value. It should also be noted that the cadence depends on the pace/speed, that is, it is normal that the cadence is lower in light running, and that it should not be the same at different running tempo.

Cadence is closely related to the length of the step, and the individual to increase the cadence needs to shorten the step, or to invest more energy (to accelerate) into a single step. Therefore, it is clear that the most efficient way to increase the racing cadence is to shorten the stake or reduce the energy stakes in a single step. It is also possible to add a ground contact time factor, that is, the reduction in contact duration increases in (a certain percentage) cadence. Runners running on a heel, whose hips “falls in” (not strong body) spend too much touching the ground, and thus lose a part of the step that directly affects the reduction of cadence, in addition to other biomechanical errors.

kadenca-trcanjeA 180-steps/minute is roughly linked to economical running (at higher pace and above, while jogging and very light running involve a lower cadence) for several decades, and the individual can not make a big mistake by striving to cadences of around 180 steps/minute from the Z3 (intensity endurance zone) onwards. Recreationists and beginners have lower cadences and, therefore, the largest space for progress by increasing cadence. Triathlon, as a sport in which running is after swimming and cycling when the body is fairly exhausted, further emphasizes the importance of cadences, ie, the significance of the optimal (multiple) cadence. Because tired legs and muscles can not function optimally to a low cadence that directly represents too much “running”, and higher cadence is the most effective way for an optimal running rhythm. It’s very easy to see the difference in cadences between top runners and poor runners, especially in the last part of the race segment, in triathlon races of all distances. And long runs like Ironman and Half-Ironman are events in which the optimal cadence means to be or not to be. So, in triathlon racing, especially a long, simple trick of cadence increase on the full length of the steps and the “hardening” of the body, positively affects the more economical use of energy.

Another important element of high cadences is the prevention of injuries. The higher the number of steps means less stress on the foot during each separated step, on the joints, tendons and ligaments, because the contact with the floor is shorter due to the smaller impulse of the step (less power is applied in steps, ie less force acting on the legs).

When running at high speeds, professional racers and triathlets can have a really high cadence that goes up to 200 paces per minute. This is only possible (“justified” by the side of economy) at a speed of 3 min/km and faster. Because a cadence of 200 at 4 min/km would mean that the step is simply too short and “weak”.

Cadence is very simply measured by race clocks (devices and GPS devices, such as racing and triathlon Garmin devices) that have become the main arsenal of most runners. Another way is to count the footsteps at an interval of 15″, by multiplying by 4 and multiplying by 2 (or by multiplying by 8, 4 because 60/15 = 4, and 2 because cadence is expressed by the number of steps of both legs) steps in one minute, and a more precise way (because for example, on an interval of 15″ there must not be an exact number of steps, but 20.4 which is impossible to measure or perceive) is the measurement of the interval at which the foot takes 10 steps, and if it is, for example . 6.8″, then the formula 60 / 6.8 * 10 * 2 gives the cadence (60 is the number of seconds per minute, 10 is the number of steps, and 2 is because the steps of both legs count). The result would be a cadence of 60 / 6.8 * 10 * 2 = 176.5 steps per minute.

The video shows the length of the steps of three legends of a mid-long and long run – Gebrsellasie, Bekele and Farah at the famous BUPA Great North Run semi-marathon race. At first glance, it is clear how far Farah’s step is longer than the other two. Farah 1.75 m, Gebrselasie 1.67 m, Bekele 1.65 m. Interestingly, it was precisely Bekele, who had the shortest step to win the race in front of Farah and Gebrselasie. Does that mean that a shorter step is unconditionally better? Certainly not, and to discuss more about the race, you should know Cadence. From the video of the sprint finish race  (at 5:30 min) it can be clearly seen that cadence of Bekele is higher than Farah’s, and that higher cadence and “kick” enable to enter the target first.

The Farah is very specific because of his functional abilities, then the technique and the long step (long legs and high speed durability) and the next video can show how cadence can target acceleration.

In the middle of the race Farah’s cadence is 176 paces/minute, while in the final in 400-500 meters (2 lap), the cadence grows up to 187 steps/minute, an increase of 6.25%. His time of 7:41 minutes on a race of 3,000 meters in a cadence of 176 steps gives an incredible 2.2 meter length! The length of the step is obtained by the formula 3000 / (176 * 7.68) where 3000 is the number of meters of the race, 176 cadences, and 7.68 is the number of minutes, the duration of the race in minutes (41 seconds is 0.68 minutes, 7 + 0.68). For comparison, my step length at a slower pace is 1.2 m, and in a interval run, 1.6 – 1.7 m. At 3 km of maximum effort I doubt it would go above 1.78 – 1.8 m.

The display of these two races is only a review of certain segments related to cadence and the length of the step, but it should be kept in mind that these athletes are not too important as a parameter for the rest of the world’s population of runners and triathletes, because they are extreme examples. So you should look at the parameters that can show how cadence affects the economy of running, and how much optimal cadence is important for an individual.

A very simple cadence increase trick is the focus on the hands and the work of the hand. When the work of the hand increases consciously (swinging), the work of the leg will be accelerated and the cadence will increase. Because the work of the foot must follow the work of the hand because the upper and lower extremities are synchronized, and in this way an individual can easily manipulate and target a higher or lower cadence. Most runners, when trying to increase cadence by thinking about a number of steps have problems with the elements of coordination and it is difficult for many to increase the cadence, but the technique remains consistent. So it is necessary to know that the work of the hand manipulates cadence in running or working legs.

Regarding the relationship between cadence and the running economy, one aspect that binds to a lower cadence, and thus a step forward, is an overstated movement of the leg to the front, with the foot treading in the horizontal plane too far ahead of the vertical where the knee is, which is very bad because in this way the body’s inertia is reduced and stopped from the biomechanical side of the body, and also on the running on the heal is more pronounced. The foot during the run should not go more than a couple of cm in front of the knee level, even at higher speeds.

When a runner takes a lot of time for thinking to look for his most economical cadence, and when a particular cadence becomes natural in his rhythm without any thought it really becomes incredible how many steps are automated at a certain speed. I have outlined several personal trainings that are really representative examples, where during fartlek and interval running from repetition to cadence repetition remains practically the same, with only one or two step per minute difference. I consider these examples to suggest the importance of cadence for the running economy, because the story of cadence-related theory can be expanded in multiple directions, while for practice there should be examples and models of more runners of a similar level of fitness where comparisons could be made. Therefore, personal examples can awaken an intuition to understand the importance of cadence, and a practical approach in a larger number of people by any triathlon race can serve as a test in which an individual should measure the cadence of triathletes in the last parts of the racing and associate the figure with running time, and placement, and really get the data black to white. Thanks to the race coach Bobby McGee, who is probably the most deserving of my work on technique since the junior days when I had the opportunity to work with him on several campsites, and his measurements at the World Cup in Mooloolaba and the World Series finals on Gold Coast, convinced that the higher Cadence in the triathlon race is associated with better performance. From his measurements, the principle and pattern of the faster triathletes, especially in the last kilometers, had a higher cadence than those that ended in the middle or back, clearly and without error.

10x1 30

The graph shows cadence of 10 × 1: 30 min in Z4-Z5 training with active pause of 1:30 min of light run. The full range of cadences ranges from 191 to 193 steps/minute, with an average tempo of about 3:10 min/km. This training was the third training day, with a stronger swim and a bike riding for about 90 km so that the factor of certain fatigue exists, and therefore it is important that cadence of 190 or more at that rhythm, because the cadence would, for example, 175 or 180 come to earlier muscle fatigue.

10x1 30 2

The other graphic shows the same training next week, and the cadence is 3-5 steps incremented on average, but the tempo is faster for  a few seconds/minute, therefore a slightly higher cadence is a direct consequence of a somewhat faster pace. It should be noted that fatigue was lower because it was another training day with a 95 km ride. And there is certainly a difference in the tiredness of the nervous system between training two or three trainings in the same day, and of course the trainings of the previous days have an impact.

For both trainings, there is another specific parameter specific to cadence and running economy – the length of the step. And it’s about 1.65 m (with a difference of only a couple of cm depending on whether the tempo is about 3:10 min/km or closer to 3:00 min/km). It means a difference of only a few centimeters in all repetitions. A very uniform cadence, and the length of the steps should not represent any kind of art, but it’s simply a fact that shows how much a step at a certain runtime is automated and trained if there is a good economy. If the economy was bad, in the second part of the training there would be a reduction in the pace, and a reduction in cadence. The next two graphics show several parameters of the two training sessions.

10x1 30 c 10x 1 30 2 c

An even more representative example of the importance of cadence uniformity for efficiency and cost-effectiveness during training can be seen in the following graphic where the training was 8 × 4 minutes in Z4 with an active slow-running pause of 1 minute. Cadence in all 8 series is 190-191 steps/minute, for a duration of 32 minutes of the main part of fartlek training cadence has not changed by more than one step per minute.

8x4 min

Although there is a difference in the tempo between the 4th and 5th series (3:14 and 3:21 min / km), it is attributed to the wind (the series were run in different directions), and precisely when the wind is from different directions or when it runs with a mild uphill, or in a different field, the best way to maintain the same rhythm (breathing and steps, not the same pace of running) is to maintain the same cadence. Because the same pace with a gentle wind in the back, and the same pace with a gentle wind in the chest require a different energy stake, therefore the heart rate is different, as well as the length of the step (which is longer with the wind in the back, and therefore the speed of the higher at the same cadence).

8x4 min c

The length of the steps during all the series is about 1.59 m, which is about 6 cm shorter compared to the series of 1:30 minutes at a slower tempo than about 10 s/km. According to these values, it is easy to see the relationship between cadence, the speed of running, and the length of the step, since they are all interconnected and each parameter is dependent on the other two.

The following graphic shows slight progression between the series (8 × 2 minutes with active pause of 1:30 min of light running between) where after the 5th series it is slightly accelerated, and it can easily be seen that the acceleration is caused by an increased number of steps, which goes from 190 up to 194 steps/minute.

8x2 min

But the most important fact of the presented training is the uniform length of the step which is 1.67 m (the graph is only to give a moment of 1.71 m, although the average length of the step of this repetition is just 1.67 m), and at the first repetition of 3:10 min/km and at 8- with a repetition of 3:06 min/km. Although not a big difference in the pace, the cadence is 190 versus 194 steps/minute, so since the same step length is practically 4 steps increments, the result is a faster rhythm of 4 seconds/km, and this is important to notice.

8x2 min c

By comparing images at different stages of the step, as in the graph below, several very important things related to the running technique can be identified, and therefore the length of the step that is always associated with cadence. It can also be seen if there is an overstated step where the foot treads in front of the knee level. The graphic shows that the metatarsal part of the foot when touching the ground is practically level with the knee. Pictures are from the 3 km test, meaning running in Z5 and higher Z5. Not connected with step and cadence, it is very easy to analyze the hips, shoulders, head position and body during the stretch phase, so drawing pictures from the video is a fairly powerful method for working on different elements of the racing step.



🇬🇧10 times Balkan champion, professional triathlete (representing Serbia), half-marathoner, ironman 70.3, traveler.

🇷🇸10 puta šampion Balkana, profesionalni triatlonac i reprezentativac, polumaratonac i maratonac, svetski putnik.

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