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Stop Over-striding and Improve Your Cadence with 1 Running Drill

I know, this seems like a pretty bold statement doesn't it?

Especially because it feels like a 2 for 1 deal…


But that's because it is.

Stride length and cadence are inseparable.

Like Frodo and Sam.

Bono and U2.

Millennials and their iced coffees.



But let's back up a hot second and:

  • define what over-striding is

  • and what the heck cadence is

So in non-fancy words, stride length is:

  • how long your step is.

  • How much ground to you cover with a single stride?


Over-striding is biting off more than you can chew. You're in such a hurry to go faster, go further, that your stride length becomes loooonger. And that's not always better.


Our bodies work on a spectrum and stride length is no different.


Over-striding is when your stride is too long, too large and in charge. It's beyond your optimum stride length in the spectrum of "how long can you step?".

Cadence on the other hand is:

  • simply how many steps do you take in a minute.

  • That's it. That's all.

You can literally count your cadence while you're walking around the grocery store if you really wanted to. There's nothing fancy about it.

(Still feeling a little confused? You're not alone. I've got some resources: check out this blog for more on stride length and this blog for more on cadence. Don't forget to come back!)

Then what's the big deal about either of them and why should I care, dr.whitt.fit?

Because they're peanut butter and jelly.

Choco syrup on vanilla ice cream…and now I'm hungry.

What the scientific literature has found within the past 10 years, and specifically honed in on in the past 5 years, is how much stride length and cadence impact each other. There's recent research out there stating boldly that you CANNOT train cadence without impacting stride length. It's IMPOSSIBLE.

And I'd agree.

Here's why.

Stride length and cadence are in an everlasting, inverse relationship.

As one goes up, the other goes down.

As you take more steps per minute, your stride length gets shorter. As you take fewer steps per minute, your stride length increases.

If you need a visual, take one of mine.

I'm 5'2.75". Exactly.

The husband: 6' 3".

(yes, we look ridiculous and yes, I wear heels even though they're "bad" for runners…whatever.)


The point is, tall, lumber-jack husband over here takes off walking at a brisk pace. But with those mile long legs, there's no way I'm catching up, even if I take huge, long steps. To make up the difference and cover the distance, I have to break into a light jog.


Which did what?


Breaking into a light jog resulted in…me taking MORE steps, NOT longer steps.

Does that start to make sense now?

So in spite of making you hungry and telling you dumb stories about how short am I, how does this help you fix over-striding and adjust your cadence?

Now that you understand

  • WHAT stride length, over-striding, and cadence is

  • and HOW they directly impact and influence each other...


...we can FINALLY start talking about the solution.

You ready?

THE SECRET TO NOT OVER STRIDING AND FIXING YOUR CADENCE IS

.

.

.

Running up a hill.

Yup.

A motto, mantra, whatever-ism I learned in Physical Therapy School:

If it's easy, let it be easy.


No, I'm not suggesting running up a hill is easy.

But it is a simple solution.

Think about it…

It's literally IMPOSSIBLE to over stride while running up a hill. The hill physically blocks you, prevents you from taking a larger, longer step because if you do, you just run into more hill.


You have to the climb the hill like you're climbing stairs.


What do you do with all this?


I tell my patients to "put that feeling into your brain" of whatever exercise or activity we're doing.

Be aware of what this feels like, how your body is moving, and burn a feeling-picture of this into your brain.


That's what you have to do when feeling the experience of running up a hill.


Because after that, all you have to do is apply that same sensation to running over flat ground.

Ta-da! You are now no longer over striding. You are running with a shorter stride length which also mean due to that inverse relationship you are also…

Running with a higher cadence (aka more steps per minute).

Because why?

Because stride length and cadence directly and inversely influence each other.

Another way to look at it:

While you're running up the hill, the only way to run up the hill FASTER, is by taking more, small steps because we already ruled out your ability to take bigger hulk-smash steps.


Sorry, the hill is winning this one every time.


The only way to eat this elephant-hill is one bite, I mean step, at a time.


The same principle applies here: "put that feeling into your brain" of how these small, quick, lots-of-steps feel.


Then, run the same way over flat ground.


You'll find that the end result is again, a higher cadence (more steps per minute) which then translates into a shorter stride length (aka no over striding!)

The whole cadence and stride length relationship can be a mystical, confusing, and over whelming challenge for beginner and intermediate runners alike when their GPS watch of choice is providing them with all this data and comparison numbers on top of that (yup, I have a whole blog about that too: check that out HERE!)


Know that you're not alone and you're probably doing better than you think you are.


But if you're still fuzzy on the details and found these examples helpful and enlightening, I have something that will REALLY make your day!


I created an entire workshop on this stuff, tackling your hardest and most frequently asked questions about:

  • stride length

  • over-striding

  • cadence

  • how to fix these issues

  • what to do with all this data

  • what all this data means

  • and how to get past that fear of injury when it comes to running fast.


Because in the end, all of these questions come down to running form, like we just talked about it in this blog post.

Yup!


Your stride length is most definitely a part of your running form.

And since cadence is connected to stride length, it's also a part of your running form…


And you get the picture.


Running is beautifully cyclical and circular. Everything feeds into each other and connects to the next thing. So you're ready to upgrade your running form and cut though all the stride length and cadence confusion, click HERE to give that workshop a peep. It's just even more of this good stuff!

But in the mean time, let me know in the comments below:

have you tried this hill trick before?

Or can you already "feel it in your mind" as we were talking about it?

Did all the lightbulbs go off??


Tell me below!

And until next time, Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt //@dr.whitt.fit

P.S. Not quite ready to jump into that workshop? Check out my FREE running guide: my go-to introduction resource to help you learn more about this whole running form-speed-sequence thing. It's filled with strength exercises, speed drills, and some mobility exercises too. Go check it out!





References:


Mo, S., & Chow, D. (2018). Stride-to-stride variability and complexity between novice and experienced runners during a prolonged run at anaerobic threshold speed. Gait & Posture, 64, 7-11. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2018.05.021

Musgjerd, T., Anason, J., Rutherford, D., & Kernozek, T. (2021). Effect of Increasing Running Cadence on Peak Impact Force in an Outdoor Environment. International Journal Of Sports Physical Therapy. doi: 10.26603/001c.25166

Van Oeveren, B., de Ruiter, C., Beek, P., & van Dieën, J. (2021). The biomechanics of running and running styles: a synthesis. Sports Biomechanics, 1-39. doi: 10.1080/14763141.2021.1873411

Wang, W., Qu, F., Li, S., & Wang, L. (2021). Effects of motor skill level and speed on movement variability during running. Journal Of Biomechanics, 127, 110680. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2021.110680

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