Improving Running Efficiency

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By Emma Jewell, CrossFit & Endurance Specialist

I recently received a question from one our of athletes trying to improve his running cadence. He had been working to increase his cadence to the 180 steps per minute (spm) optimal range, but experienced an increase in his heart rate preventing him from maintaining that cadence for long periods of time.

As an experienced runner (you can read more in my bio here), I shared the following tips and advice on how best to address your cadence.

The increased heart rate makes sense at the increased spm rate. Much like a higher set of heavy deadlifts or different rowing mechanics and frequencies, this is uncharted territory for your body and that equates to stress. Poor mechanics may lead to a plateau, injury or, at the very least, inefficiency.

To start, film your natural gait, then film your gait at 180 spm.

  • What is your current average steps per minute?

  • Does your gait look better or worse at the increased rate?

If your gait, specifically your running pose, looks better after the rate increase, then continue working on exposing yourself to that stride rate. Gait mechanics should take priority. However, if there is no improvement, maintain your natural stride rate. Rather than trying to reach the 180 spm mark, focus on maintaining great gait mechanics and slowly, over time begin moving towards the 180 spm range.