Has anyone asked you what your cadence is and you just sit there with a confused look on your face? That is exactly what happened to me when I first started running and developed shin splints. Running cadence is simply your stride or step count. The ideal step count is 180 steps per minute (90 per foot). I was told by a running coach that I needed to change my form in order to get my shin splints under control. Being a heal striker at the time and having my foot land in front of my hips was causing all of the impact to go right through my legs instead of letting my legs absorb the shock.
How Do I Change My Cadence?
It is important to not try an increase your cadence too quickly because your legs will not be used to it. First, find out what your cadence is. Run at your normal pace and count your steps for thirty seconds. I like to only count when my right leg connects to the ground, which makes it easier to count. Then multiply that number by 4 to find your running cadence.
Tools to Help Out
There are three approaches to keeping the right cadence.
1) Get a Garmin watch that tells you your cadence. I have the Garmin Forerunner 610 and love it. You have to get the foot pod, which is sold separately to count cadence, but it is worth it. The Garmin Forerunner 620 has a built in Cadence sensor, but is more expensive.
2) Download a metronome app and you can play it on your phone while you run. Set it at the desired tempo and just match your foot count to the beat of the metronome. Again, I find it easier to cut the number in half and just match one foot to the beat. I set my metronome at 90 beats per minute.
3) You can download songs with the desired beats per minute. There are free apps on the Google Play store like Music Maniac Pro and Skull mp3. You can download songs for free, just put the artist and song in. You can go to www.bpmdatabase.com and search by beats per minute. I prefer songs with 90 beats per minute because they seem easier to follow. You can also search on Jog.FM for playlists.
Make a Plan
When I met with a local running coach, I was running at 170 steps per minute. He said every week to increase my steps per minute by 2 (i.e. first week increase to 172 steps per minute, second week increase to 174 steps per minute, until I get to 180 steps per minute).
Benefits of Increased Running Cadence
By increasing your running cadence you will actually cause your feet to touch the ground for less time, which will make you faster. It will decrease the amount of impact on your joints and will actually move the spot at where your foot connects to the ground further back. Your foot should connect with the ground directly below your hips. You will be a more efficient runner and find that you will have more energy in no time. I hope this helps you in becoming a better runner like it did for me.