Training

Pump up the jam – Using music to improve your cadence

Aug 27, 2020

Improve running cadence with music

What is cadence?

In running, cadence is the number of steps a runner takes per minute (SPM). The average cadence for recreational runners is 165-170 strides per minute – for experienced runners this is usually mid 180’s.

How can you find out what yours is?

Count the number of times your left foot hits the ground in 30 seconds then double it to get the total for 60 second, then double it again to get the total for both feet. Or, many running watches are able to tell you this as well.

Why is cadence important?

The less you over-stride and the quicker your stride rate, the faster you will run (if you stick to your training plan, eat nutritious food, live a balanced lifestyle and recover adequately). You will also become more efficient, making you less prone to injuries.

How can you use music to improve your cadence?

Once you’ve determined your current running cadence, just add 5 to 10 percent to establish your new target running cadence. If your current cadence is 160 spm, a 5 percent increase would bring your target cadence to 168 spm.

Assuming you are going for a 50-minute run, you’d want to structure the playlist as follows:

Warmup: 2 to 3 songs. Start out with a few of your favourite songs for your warmup, preferably ones that will help you relax and ease into the run.

Cadence work: 3 to 4 songs. You’ll want to focus on cadence work for short distances during your runs. Try to maintain the new stride rate, but give your body time to adjust. Pick 3-4 songs from your target BPM range. On your run, focus on good form while running in time to the beat.

Mid-run mental break: 2 to 3 songs. Give your brain and body a bit of a break from focusing on that new cadence by choosing a few songs here to relax and run easy.

Cadence work: 2 to 3 songs. Choose another two to three songs in that ideal cadence range and refocus on hitting your target stride rate. Focus on having quick feet.

Cool down: 2 to 3 songs. Choose any songs you’d like to round out your workout.

On Spotify, you can even download playlists for your goal cadence. Check out this one for 180 BPM

Just a note on safety: Running with earphones does present a safety concern as it stops you from hearing cars on the road, as well as any other danger that may be around. It’s best to be in a safe environment when doing this workout.

Christine Prokopiak


Christine is a running coach and nutrition specialist based with Sole Buddies #LiveLife in Cape Town. She is also the co-anchor for the GerhardandChristineLiveLife podcast, and co-founder of For The Long Run, a social upliftment project and registered NPO in Fisantekraal. Read more about Sole Buddies here. 

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