Confused about cadence and running stride length

In cycling a higher cadence (rotations of pedal per minute) is more efficient than churning a higher gear at a low rate - but you have to find the balance between no resistance in the gears leading you to leg spin with no effect on the bike, and too hard.

I'm wondering if it's same or different in running?

Early on in the C25K I found it easier to have a shorter stride (and therefore more strides). With this I can do a 5k in between 30 and 32 minutes, which I'm pretty happy about.

But for the second week in a row, I've done the 5k+ speed podcasts. At both paces I've had to lengthen my stride to keep to the beat, which feels both unnatural and 'slower'.

However, it seems to be faster: Today my average pace was 5.59 min/km; a whole 41 seconds faster than the last 5k I did; and I'm pretty sure I could keep that up for another 10 minutes.

Another thing would confirm that a longer stride is more efficient; when I sprint I tend to shorten my stride and drive with my arms; and this works for short distances but I couldn't do that for any longer than, say 100 metres.

what's your experiences of stride length? Do you tend to have a longer or shorter one?

I think I'll experiment and force myself to keep a slower cadence on my next 5k and report on how it felt - and my time and pace!

6 Replies

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  • I have a longer stride, as I have fairly long legs ;) But yeah, the further you put out your legs, the fewer times you have to pick them up...

  • I have a longer stride on the flat and downhill, shorten it going up hill. I'm faster when i do the longer stride but have to work harder at it.

  • Thanks guys :)

    After doing some reading I've concluded that I will focus on keeping the longer stride, using the speed podcast until I'm comfortable with the length of stride; and then I'll try and increase my cadence by running double that of the pace of the podcasts.

    My reasoning:

    1. Longer strides is possibly more efficient. I've not read anything yet that confirms this but the long distance athletes tend to stretch their legs - and this is the way most short distance runners run, apart from Ussain

    2. It has to be coupled with a faster cadence - as this increases speed, but also allows for a more glidy-action, which is more efficient than a bounce. with my current longer-stride cadence I'm bouncing too much.

    3. Upping the pace to double will be a good workout!!!

    Useful articles.

    This guy talks about how faster cadence is associated with faster speed:

    sweatscience.com/the-proble...

    He also concludes that over-striding is a problem among recreational runners, so increasing cadence is the "way to go".

    runnersworld.com/running-ti...

    Has useful tips about working out your stride rate.

    well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012...

    Debunks some myths about running style. And has a video of top atheletes, all of whom have long strides.

  • Thank you for the links - I haven't looked yet but once again my current burning question may have been answered without me asking it!

    Burning question is: when doing the Stamina C25K+ run, my km split times vary, but not according to the bpm I'm running at. What I mean is that I can be taking faster strides but actually going slower (which I think is what you meant about Stepping Stones and adjusting stride length to go slow enough). Of course the next logical question is "how do I go faster if running with quicker strides won't help?" And that's where I am now (or would be if I weren't taking an extended snow break).

    I'll have a read of them later and maybe get some ideas for improving. I'm close to you at the moment - PB for 5K is 34 mins.

    Thanks again - Ann

  • I am currently trying to increase my cadence first. With the higher cadence I shorten my stride and it stops me landing on my heel. Something I tend towards when striding out.

    I think once my leg speed is quicker I can then try it with a longer stride, plus when I stride longer it makes the treadmill feel too small!

  • Interesting reading. Since returning to running after the 6-week injury break, I've really lost my cadence. Today I used the 5K+ Speed intervals podcast for the first time since October and I felt it was tough,

    I definitely wish to work on my cadence, especially since my usual running routes are hilly. I can't keep a consistent long stride when going uphill (nor down, as I'm conscious I'm braking with my heels when going down if I stride out) so prefer to work on increasing my cadence.

    Looking at the Garmin stats and map for my run this morning, I see the only place where I consistently managed to keep at a steady pace of 5.35 - 5.45 min/km was a 800m section with a fall of 40m. On this very gradual slope I think I did stride out more for both the fast and slower one minute intervals as well as increase my cadence for the fast intervals.

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