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What’s Your Cadence?

At one time, the first compatibility question was “What’s your sign?”. Maybe it still is for determining compatibility in a relationship. When you choose your running “partner(s)”, you might think that if you run about the same speed and have a lot to chat about – you are good to go. But there is another very important element to your compatibility.

A runner’s cadence is the number of steps taken per minute, usually counted on one side. To determine this number, one method is to take a one minute sample of the number of steps on the right, ie. You can also have someone match a device called a Metronome to your step or arm swing. We each have a current cadence based on a number of individual factors; it is essentially the music or rhythm that plays in your head. This number is usually somewhere between 75 and 95, and there is some correlation to your running technique. Running by reaching and landing forward will generally have a slower cadence; and landing more under you will generally have a faster cadence. In ChiRunning, the approach is to slowly adjust your cadence into the range of 85-90 on one side. This cadence will support a light, quick, efficient turnover … but not so quick you add excess effort or lose the opportunity for pelvic rotation/hip extension.

A challenge emerges when you run with “someone” who has a different cadence than you do; which also includes the case when that someone is music. Since we tend to sync to the rhythms around us, ie. ever try to dance to a different beat with music playing?, we will likely change our cadence and therefore change our technique. There a few scenarios when you run with “someone” else:

  • You have different cadences; and your cadence drifts to the other person. This will likely also change your technique since to maintain speed, you need to change stride length.
  • You have different cadences; and you drift towards each other.
  • You have different cadences; and they drift to you. This will only occur if you stay very focused on maintaining your own cadence.
  • You have similar cadences. In this case you will likely feed off of each other and pick up speed without realizing it.

I started to notice this on group runs. Some runs are easy, some hard (mentally) depending on who I am running with. The ones that are hard mentally are the ones where I have to hold my ground (cadence) and work to ignore someone(s) else’s cadence.

A specific example of this occurred just the other day. I was running with someone and started to sense effort. So I went through my list of questions: Aligned? Relaxed? Balanced? I noticed I was a little tense and out of balance. The cause was a slower cadence. When your cadence slows down at least two things happen:

  • Your stride length has to increase to run the same speed.
  • You have to lean less since you are not picking up your feet fast enough to keep up with your forward fall. If you don’t lean less you will tense to control the lean. It is like a unicyclist who pedals less but does not lean less; a recipe for disaster.

So I tensed up trying to stay balanced; and therefore created more effort. I felt like I was plodding along, relatively speaking, and noticed my cadence was the same as the other person. As soon as I shifted my focus on resetting my own cadence to its normal value using the Waltz count “right-two-three, left-two-three, right-two-three, left-two-three, …” in my head, the effort immediately decreased. I restored my quicker more efficient cadence which added balance and therefore relaxation … and therefore a lean appropriate for the desired speed. For the rest of the run I “held my ground” and kept my cadence even though the other person was covertly trying to slow it down.

The lesson here is another example of being careful about who you hang out with. Influence is subtle, but powerful … even out on a run. Remember to dance to the beat of your own drum. If you sense more effort be sure to add the fourth question: Aligned? Relaxed? Balanced? Cadence?, as you work to determine the cause.

Learn more about running alignment, relaxation and balance in this brief intro video: ChiRunning Simplified! Efficient and Injury Free Natural Running Technique

More on Cadence: What’s Your Cadence Part 2


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David Stretanski is a holistic health, fitness and wellness coach – and Certified ChiRunning®/ChiWalking® Instructor.  For more information on David, please see his About MeContact page or his website at

ChiRunning® and ChiWalking® are registered trademarks of ChiLiving, Inc.


Posted on Friday, Apr. 15th 2011 2:06 PM | by echifitness | in All, ChiRunning, Fitness | No Comments »

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