Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A good article for folks that focus on the 180 steps per minute. Be careful as it is often over simplified. Speed is a combo of stride rate and length and, what is often disregarded, is the pace at which the spm were counted. Jack Daniels measured the 180 which has become religion with elite runners at tempo pace.  I see runners out take these extremely short baby steps, however, you can only increase your cadence by 5-10% as there's a point where you can take as many steps as you like but you'll quickly max out.  You can't disregard stride length and, regardless of what you hear, both stride rate and length increase as you get faster and it's the same for the vast majority of elite runners.  

This issue is the point in time in which we analyze elite runners.  It's one thing to watch a runner at 5:30 min. pace increase to 5:00 pace as they were already flying at the 5:30 pace :).  It's another to take a runner at a 9:30 warm-up pace and compare that to a 9:00 pace or 5:00 pace.  The fact is many elite runners are in the 160-170 range at slower paces (8:00 - 9:00 pace).  I tested myself on the treadmill and at a 9:30 pace, I'm around 164.  At that pace, if I try to force a 180 stride rate, not only does it feel wrong, it's inefficient especially for my body type as a slightly taller runner.  I don't hit 180 strides per minute until I'm around the 6:45 pace range and I'm around 184-186 at the 6:15 pace range.  The 6:00 min. mile is basically my aerobic threshold (although I can hold 5:45 for a 5k) and at that pace, I'm around 186-188 strides per minute.  My point is to keep the 180 gospel in perspective.   

Remember, you can have too long a stride but you can also have too short a stride (both can be inefficient):


  1. Thanks for posting this!

    I agree things are not that simple and we should not focuss on 1 variable. Funnily I reached the magic 180 number when I tested MAF training sessions earlier this year. In every one of those tests I was feeling discomfort in my knees afterward. The slow MAF pace probably made me lazy with Running Form. My sweet spot seems to be somewhere in the 190-195 range (sub tempo pace) and goes over 210 for 100 meters intervals.

    I am not sure this the most efficient I can run, though I guess my shorter lower body (legs) in proportion with upper body (yes I'm one of those who looks taller when sitting at a table than standing lol)means I have to compensate with higher stride rate.

    I rely more on feel. When I reached a point in my training level where I can feel things seem more easy and it seems I am more relaxed even in a hard training session, I then guess I am closer to my sweet spot and will be looking to that same feeling in training, races and running for fun.

  2. You got it :). It's a range and below 180 and above 180 is absolutely fine. It's when you drop below the range on the low side. For example, 150 or 160 strides per minutes especially at a comfortable pace is likely way too low for any runner and improvements can be made. On the other side, a runner can have too high a turnover for the given pace and that's not efficient and it could cause other issues.

    Once you can hit the 170 or so range, it's all about feel from that point. It's the 150-160 plodding runner that can run into problems.



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