Get skipping to improve fitness and running

A slow pace doesn’t mean a sluggish run. Rhythm is the key to maintaining power at a slower pace. Your underlying rhythm when running should be your cadence. That is your stride rate.

You can find your current cadence by setting a timer for 30 seconds and run at a comfortable speed. Count the number of times your right heel lifts off the floor and multiply this by 4.

Make a note of your current cadence. If it’s under 170bpm then there’s definitely room for improvement and by quickening your cadence you’ll soon see the benefits in your running.

As a general rule, your cadence (regardless of pace) should be between 170-180 beats per minute. If you are below this then you are spending too much time on the ground so it will take you more work to get off the ground.

Check out this simple test 

  1. Stand on one leg for about 30 seconds to a minute and then swap sides
  2. Take quick light steps on the spot, balancing on one leg whilst peeling the heal of the other and quickly changing from leg to leg.

Which is easier? I’m guessing you’ll say 2 as you are spending less time on the support leg, less time having to balance and therefore less ‘muscle work’.

All you do now is add the power of gravity, ground force, and momentum to this idea. This gives you a light, quick cadence in your running that optimises natural elastic energy.

A 170-180 cadence will activate this natural elastic energy. Think of skipping.

Skipping is a great way to improve your cadence in preparation for running along with your fitness too. You don’t need a rope either. Just skip on the spot. 

One study shows [1] ‘that healthy runners who increase cadence by 5% should experience decreases in plantar loading that may be associated with lower extremity injuries’. 

Another study [2] showed that increasing cadence in both a minimalist and control shoe reduced stress and reaction force on the knee joint.

Such studies suggest that optimal cadence can reduce the risk of injury.

Here’s a great focus from senior instructor Nick Constantine

“imagine running over a hot surface, try to stop your feet from touching the ground. Avoid balls of feet, just think ‘tap and kiss the ground, not strike the ground, or hit the ground’ minimal noise is a good indication of lightness and reduced contact time.” 

Check out also this excellent article that Nick has written on skipping.

Now you’ve set your constant cadence, synchronise a smooth, rhythmical, nasal breathing pattern to this, keeping it light and easy.

Avoid forcing anything and simply feel the power of natural rhythm settling into the body. You’ll soon feel a sense of being ‘in the zone’.

References

[1] The Effects of Running Cadence Manipulation on Plantar Loading in Healthy Runners. J. Wellenkotter, T. W. Kernozek, S. Meardon, T. Suchomel. Int J Sports Med 2014; 35(09): 779-784. DOI: 10.1055/s-0033-1363236 https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/html/10.1055/s-0033-1363236

[2] Bonacci, Jason, Michelle Hall, Aaron Fox, Natalie Saunders, Tristan Shipsides, and Bill Vicenzino. ‘The Influence of Cadence and Shoes on Patellofemoral Joint Kinetics in Runners with Patellofemoral Pain’. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 21, no. 6 (June 2018): 574–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2017.09.593.

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