Running speed = stride rate x stride length

I’ve discussed cadence, or strides per minute, before. I also confessed that my cadence was 151 on a slow run, which now that I’ve read more about it, turns out to be abysmally slow.

According to most articles (here, here, and here, for example), the optimal cadence is 180 strikes per minute. That’s what most elite runners seem to be consistently doing no matter the distance. So, for a 5k race or a marathon, these elite athletes run at a constant cadence of 180. What makes them faster is the stride rate.

This article in corerunning.com indicates that how fast one can run depends on two variables, stride rate and stride length.

Stride rate or cadence is the number of foot strikes per minute while your stride length is simply the distance between one foot strike and the next.

To run faster you need to do one of the following:

1. Increase your cadence.
2. Increase your stride length.
3. Increase both.

Given that my cadence is crap, I think I’ll focus on increasing that first. This article in runningrules.com suggests doing the following drills at least once a week:

  • Intervals – Gradually increase cadence to 180 in 3 to 5 minute intervals separated by walking or jogging slowly.
  • Dorsiflex – Before hitting the ground, pull up the toes towards the shin.
  • Land on you centre of gravity – I understand this a not stretching the legs forward, instead landing the foot at the same level as the hips/torso.

I’ll give these a go.


Thru the Gears – AudioFuel Review

A few days ago I ran into AudioFuel, a company in the UK that produces music specifically for running. The interesting thing is that their tracks include coaching, which I’m starting to like now that I figured out how to create good sessions in Runkeeper.

Looking through their site, I found a free track called Thru the Gears, so I downloaded and took it for a spin yesterday.

It’s only 15 minutes, but it does serve as good sample of what they’re about. The session starts with slowish music and a voice telling you to stretch for a few moments. Then the tempo increases a bit to a brisk walk. After a few minutes you start jogging at a specific BPM. This is when I really started to like it.

After a few minutes the voice comes back and tells you to run at a higher pace, with the music changing accordingly. After about 10 minutes I was running fairly fast and truly enjoying it.

Unfortunately, the workout ended too quickly. I was truly into it when I heard the voice telling me to slow down for the cool down.

I think doing this workout 2 or 3 times in a row will be amazing. It’d be great if I could just skip the intro for the second and third time. Maybe I’ll give it a go.

The question is: did it make me run faster?

Honestly, I really think it did. The combination of music that’s playing at a constant tempo and a coach telling you what to do is definitely inspirational. I loved running to the music and each step perfectly matched with my foot hitting the road. It felt like dancing.

My only concern is that since the music is instrumental only, it might get a bit boring after a while. Plus, I really like listening to my old songs when doing smart playlists in iTunes.

UPDATE: This is how AudioFuel describes the Thru the Gears track:

Thru the Gears begins with a minute of stretching to warm up followed by a minute at a walking pace. Then the pace builds up to a jogging pace, gradually revving right up to a 170 beat per minute sprint. The last minute gives you a recovery period to walk and stretch out.

I also found this graph that shows it visually. Pretty cool.

How to create a Smart Playlist in iTunes for running

itunes-playlist-criteria

I mentioned it briefly in my first post, but since I’ve been saying that one of the things I like the most about creating running playlists is rediscovering old music, I thought I’d explain how to create a smart playlist in iTunes it in a little more detail.

What is a Smart Playlist?

In iTunes, a Smart Playlist is one that’s generated based on pre-defined criteria. You define this criteria and iTunes automatically fills it to match. Smart Playlists are also “live”, meaning they’ll change automatically if the criteria changes.

A good example is the “Recently Added”, or “My Top Rated” playlists that come pre-built into iTunes. The content of these will automatically update based on what you do. Add new songs and the “Recently Added” will pull them in. Rate a song 5 stars and it’ll be automatically included in the “My Top Rated” playlist.

How to create a Smart Playlist for running?

If you want to use beats-per-minute (BPM), which I recommend, you first need to add this data to your songs. Unfortunately, songs you purchase don’t come with this information embedded, so you have to figure out a way to add it. I explained how I added BPM for free here. Other than that, it’s really simple:

1. Open iTunes and select ‘Music’ from the Library dropdown on the left and click on ‘Playlists’.

itunes-library-playlists

2. In the lower left, there’s a ‘+’ (plus sign) next to a gear sign. Click on the plus sign and choose ‘New Smart Playlist’. A new window will open where you can select the criteria for your playlist.

itunes-playlist-criteria

In the example above, I’ve chosen:

  • BPM is in the range of 160 to 170
  • Genre is Electronic
  • Plays is 0
  • Limit it to 45 minutes

Note that at the top I checked to match ‘all’ of the following rules. This is important as otherwise it’ll pull songs that match any criteria, not necessarily all.

The BPM will ensure all songs are at a high and consistent tempo. You don’t want to be listening to a very fast song and then get a ballad when you’re in the zone. Genre is self explanatory. Plays at zero means it’s a song that hasn’t been played before. As I mentioned, I have a lot of music that I haven’t gotten around to listening (or that I haven’t heard since I put them in iTunes), and I like to run to music I haven’t heard in a while. The limit ensures the playlist is contained to a certain amount of time.

That’s it. Click OK and a new playlist will be created in your Playlists list in iTunes.

Since the BPM is unfortunately not always correct, I tend to create playlists with more music than I need and then delete the ones that don’t work for running. To do this, just change the limit. For example, if I want a 45 minute playlist I’ll limit it to 60 minutes, giving me a few extra songs.

If I find a playlist that I really like I just copy the songs into a normal playlist and that way they’ll never change.

So there you go. If you were wondering how to create a smart playlist in iTunes, specifically for running, this is a good way.

“The time of the year” is different in the southern hemisphere

It is the time of the year when people will be enjoying the outside weather and engaging in many outdoor sports. One outdoor sport that I enjoy this time of the year is running and it is a great way to stay in shape In order to get the most out of my run I enjoy listening to music.

It may be that time of the year in the northern hemisphere, but where I live it’s starting to get cold!

The author shares her list of 10 favourite songs to run to.

via: Yahoo! Sports


On running on a treadmill

Hilary Howard on NYTimes.com:

When I complained again about the lack of music, Ms. Cornish indicated that her class was multimedia-friendly. “My Wall Street clients use one earphone,” she said, “so they can both listen to me and watch CNBC.”

I thought this quote was funny, but the whole article is actually quite interesting. The writer basically enrolled in a few treadmill classes in various gyms in New York and explains how it went. And she throws a few good tips in there.

Non of the classes she attended had music though. Since they were classes, they had to pay attention to the trainers, so no iPods. She ends the article with:

The next time I stepped onto a treadmill for a solo workout, I knew what to do. I set the incline at 1.0 and made sure to follow speed intervals with slower paces on steeper hills. My run was shorter than usual by one mile, but I felt as if I’d worked out just as hard. And the best part? I had my music and trashy television back.


More info on barefoot running

The biggest reason barefoot running has become popular is because it claims to reduce running injuries and improve foot biomechanics. What’s the evidence behind this notion? And should a person try it? There isn’t strong evidence that barefoot running is any better or worse than running with more structured shoes, in part because there aren’t enough regular barefoot runners with whom to compare users of running shoes. But there’s a lack of a solid evidence base for running footwear in general.

via: My Run Australia


Running with music vs running without music

On the argument between running with music or running without:

On the pro side is Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., a sports psychologist, who has studied music’s positive influence on athletes. His challenger is Jim Denison, Ph.D., a sports sociologist and coach, who thinks it is best to run to the sound of your footfalls. Here, the two have it out.

It’s an interesting article showing the pro and con perspectives of both sports psychologists. Worth a read if you’re on the fence or feel strongly one way or the other.

via: Runners World


On eating while running

A good article on the importance of fueling up to maintain energy levels during long runs. And tips on how to do it for those who feel nauseous eating while running. It doesn’t bother me, but I know it’s an issue for some.

Fueling in frequent, small doses is critical for success at the marathon distance.

via: Runners World