Tag Archives: cadence

Checking In 7/22/2021

Rest day today!

I’ve actually slept well the last four consecutive nights. I feel like I regained some consistency in eating fulfilling evening meals, and now I’m sleeping through the night.

The noticeable key factor however has been that each of my four preceding days was mostly busy. Sunday I was traveling much of the day and had to run errands once returning home, and Monday through Wednesday I worked all day followed by gym training. I had relatively little evening downtime before it was time to turn in, and while not outright exhausted I was definitely ready to turn in once 8pm rolled around.

In hindsight, this was closer to what my lifestyle was in Chicago, than previous months in Vegas where I might have more spare downtime following work or on the weekends. Perhaps that is what I need? I don’t feel terribly burned out on this schedule, even if yesterday I was more worn out.

However, weariness was more likely the product of consecutive days of serious training plus the higher humidity in Vegas. Both should recede in the coming days (I mentioned yesterday reducing my training days for more, fewer intense ones), and I definitely feel better today even though I ran a couple of cruise intervals and chased it with some cross training last night.

I plan to lightly cross train today, do a brief shakeout and some evening cross and strength training tomorrow, and then attempt a long treadmill workout Saturday. If my new 3 weekly workout schedule works out then this Saturday long run should feel better than similar prior attempts.

This is some interesting data on ground contact time for elite runners. I found this a day ago so I don’t remember what else I looked up that verified the following… but apparently the optimum ground contact to air time is something around 50/50… which requires a very short ground contact time.

Most of us are in the 250-300 ms range for each step we take, smaller the faster generally. Elites are generally at or under 200ms. Presuming 180 steps per minute, 3 per second, then to get a 50/50 ratio you need a ground contact time under 167 ms. That’s rather hard to do unless your “leg spring stiffness” is strong enough to quickly recoil you off the ground akin to a sprinter (though obviously endurance athletes will not be sprinting).

I know for sure based on Stryd metrics that my leg spring stiffness is rather low, and that makes sense given I’m naturally flexible and agile. The tradeoff of that agility is that a lot of the energy I put into the ground with each step diffuses instead of propeling me back up with each step.

Here and there I’ve worked on it, and now I’m making a point (with some difficulty) to practice quickly and as lightly as possible bringing each step off the ground. It doesn’t help that I’m not light: A typical elite runner is 110-130 lbs, and I’m closer to 180. I have no interest in being 130 lbs, nor could I safely get there, but I can and am working on shedding extra weight. We’ll see how far I can get with an improved GCT/air-time ratio.

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On measuring cadence instead of pace in tempo runs (when pace isn’t possible)

Yesterday I had a scheduled M-pace training run, the first in a while and the first of many in the Vancouver training cycle.

I also had to do it after work, and nowadays for a variety of reasons taking transit home and trying to do the workout at 6-7pm is not ideal.

I haul-run home from work in part to not pay for an extra transit fare home from work (I already take the bus into work), and the later in the evening I run the later I may get to bed and/or the harder time I’ll have getting to sleep. Finishing my runs before 7pm has been very beneficial to my sleep.

Also, I carry stuff to and from work in a backpack, and everything together weighs about 15-16 pounds. This is not a huge deal on regular runs (in fact it adds a bit of a strength component), but for any tempo training it definitely slows down and compromises the workout.

Nearly all of my needed running the last few months has been easy, and now I need to do more speed and tempo running. So haul running home every weekday isn’t necessarily the best decision.

I partially get around this by sometimes driving in, parking on the free curb a bit away from work (which does not have freely available parking), stowing stuff and then running in a nearby park… which allows for gear-free faster running. I got a 3/1 mixed tempo run in last week this way.

Meanwhile, I did try a Fartlek workout as a haul run, and it has reasonably solid results. Measuring the pace was a fool’s errand. The key, it turned out, was focusing on cadence.

Most runners maintain roughly the same cadence in every tempo they run. They just push off and stretch out a little farther on faster strides. I typically slow things down on run-commutes due to fatigue and due to carrying weight. To step as quickly as I do when empty-handed can cause an everyday workout to be a lot more taxing than it needs to be. In my races and tempo runs, I simply step more quickly.

Fitbit tells me that on most easy runs, I take about 760-810 steps every 5 minutes (about 155-165 steps per minute). On faster runs, I’ll take more like 820-850 steps (165-170), and I’ve gotten the wheels to turn 870ish times per 5 on occasion. I’m not at a place where I can comfortably take the fabled 180 steps per minute (900 per 5). You want your legs to turn over light and quick without straining, or it defeats the purpose of a faster cadence.

So then… if I need to haul run home on a day I have a scheduled tempo run, and I can’t or shouldn’t start the workout later in the evening when empty-handed… what if I did the tempo run as a haul run, but focused on sticking a fast cadence instead of on how fast the actual run was?

The few resources that calculate weight’s effect on your run pace go all over the place on exactly how much extra weight affects your pace per pound. And all such calculations assume body weight gain, rather than whether or not you’re carrying external weight, as I am in haul runs.

There’s a difference between gaining 15 pounds of fat and what it does to your running… and picking up 15 pounds and putting in on your back. Both affect your pace in substantially different ways. That 15 pounds of fat is spread rather evenly around your entire body. Its effect on your pace is far less than a lump of 15 pounds strapped to your shoulders and back.

For the physically strongest of us, the difference of extra carried weight is probably minimal. But most human beings will notice more of a difference than the 2-4 seconds per mile per extra pound that most calculations predict.

Yesterday, I hauled 16 pounds away from work (I had to make a purchase at lunch during work), warmed up for about 25 minutes, and then immediately quickened my cadence before holding that faster cadence for 30 minutes.

I used the step counter on my Fitbit tracker, which was conveniently right at 1000 steps when I began my pace run. Knowing that 170 steps per minute was my higher end of fast cadence, I previously calculated that over the 30 minutes I scheduled for M-pace, which came out to 5100 steps.

I rounded that down to a goal of 5000 steps at that cadence. At the 1000-step starting point, I knew my goal was to go until the counter read 6000 steps or more. I didn’t pay much attention to the time reading, and knew at worst I’d have to M-pace a bit longer than 30 minutes.

This was much easier to track mentally and physically than to monitor a clock, or look at a faulty pace reading that was only going to tell me I wasn’t going fast enough.

After a bit over 3 miles, the counter topped 6000 steps and I slowed to an easy run. The haul run M-pace workout was a success. And I didn’t feel terrible during any of it. The workout was challenging but comfortably hard.

Ideally, I don’t have to do this for every M-pace workout. Maybe I can drive in and do them at the park some days. Maybe I can get home early and get the run in with enough time to spare that I can cook/eat dinner and get to bed before 10pm. The hope is, as summer approaches and the sun comes up earlier, I can get outside and get runs in by 6am, and I can knock the M-pace runs out then.

But, if I’ve got to haul run home, and I’ve got an M-pace run scheduled that day, I now have a solid approach that allows me to get them in without compromising my training.

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