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How to Utilize Running Cadence in your Training

What is cadence?

Running cadence is calculated by counting the number steps you take per minute, and dividing it by two. For example, if your take 180 steps per minute counting both feet, your cadence is 90. Cadence is an important tool for assessing your running efficiency, and something that you can improve fairly easily by making changes to your running technique.

What factors affect cadence?

Cadence depends on several factors, these include:

  • Speed. When running within the endurance range the effect of speed on cadence is minor. On the other hand, sprinters increase their speed mainly by increasing their cadence.
  • Training history. Taking part in sports that require lots of changes in speed and in the direction of speed such as tennis or soccer tends to increase cadence even during constant velocity running.
  • Physical parameters. Taller runners tend to have lower cadences.
  • Uphill/downhill. Cadence is lower when running uphill and higher when running downhill.
  • Footwear. Running barefoot increases your cadence.

Why should you follow your cadence?

Monitoring your cadence can help you improve your running performance and avoid injuries. If you haven’t done a lot of running, your cadence might not be optimal. Typical problems include running with a cadence that is too low and overstriding (taking strides that are too long).

How to develop cadence?

To develop cadence, your nerve-muscle connection needs to be trained reasonably frequently. A session of cadence training a week is a good start. Include running with high and low cadences into your program. Exaggerate! By doing so, your neuromuscular system should quickly adapt to a new optimal cadence.

A low cadence at expected race pace can cause problems later in the event as your legs tire. Try to shorten your stride and increase cadence while holding the same pace (set a narrow pace zone on your Polar device to give you audio feedback). You can aim to raise your cadence above the following:

  • 80/min (4 hour Marathoners)
  • 85/min (3 hour 30 min Marathoners)
  • 88/min (3 hour Marathoners)

This is only a general guide, taller runners will naturally have slightly lower cadences. Tune in to what feels comfortable! Elite long-distance runners typically run with a high cadence of 85-95.

Overstriding – what it is and how it affects your running

Overstriding means stepping too far ahead. This slows you down at each step. Overstriding is often coupled with a heel strike, which can lead to a running injury. If you suspect you are overstriding, check your cadence. If it is less than 80, and especially if you also happen to heel strike, you should probably try to increase your cadence, but not to more than 90.

How to measure cadence with a Polar device?

There are two ways to measure cadence. It can be measured with a Polar stride sensor that is attached to your shoe or straight from the wrist with a Polar device’s built-in accelerometer. At this time, cadence from the wrist is only available with Vantage M, Vantage V, M430, V800, M400* and M600**.

*Please note that you need to have at least firmware version 1.7.15 on V800 and 1.8.4 on M400 to get the cadence from the wrist feature.

**To get this feature you need to have at least Polar app version 1.4 on your M600.

How to add cadence to the training view of your Polar device?

Add speed and cadence to the same training view so you can easily follow them in real time during training. This can be done in the Sport Profiles training views in the Polar Flow web service. Also don’t forget to sync your data after each run to the Flow web service for a more detailed analysis.

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