Let’s Take A Complete 180

By Mario Fraioli

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If you’ve ever read a mainstream running publication or listened to a running form guru preach on about ideal cadence, you’ve no doubt heard that you should strive for a stride rate of 180 strides per minute. No more, no less, 180 on the dot or don’t even bother putting one foot in front of the other. This recommendation has always driven me crazy. Is it wrong? Not exactly, but it’s shortsighted at best, misinformed at worst. To share a sentiment with Alex Hutchinson in this Sweat Science column for Runner’s World:

“Why is anyone giving cadence advice that ignores how fast you’re going?”

I’m glad Hutchinson reminded his readers that cadence is largely a function of speed and included the references to studies that show even the best runners have a cadence lower than 180 when they’re running at an easy pace (and often one higher than 180 at faster speeds). On an empirical level, this just makes sense to me. What’s the first thing most runners do when they want to pick up the pace? They increase their cadence. How about when it’s time to start slowing down? They decrease their cadence. There are also stride length considerations at play in both situations but the shift in cadence cannot be ignored, not should it be discouraged.

“It should be obvious that there is no magic stride frequency that everyone should run,” writes Steve Magness. “It depends on the athlete and their speed.”

A version of this post first appeared in the morning shakeout, my weekly email newsletter covering running, writing, media and other topics that interest me. If you’d like for it to land in your inbox first thing on Tuesday mornings, subscribe here.