Wow, here’s where running with music at the right cadence (or beats per minute / BPM) comes in.
If you ever watched tribal runners (Kenyan Kalenjin, Tarahumara, and many others) as well as many western elite runners, you’ll notice that their cadence (sometimes also called stride rate) is very fast. What this means is that their feet touch the ground very quickly and very often.
Studies have measured that the best cadence is around 180 steps per minute. It has also been proven that speed isn’t a factor here.
Marathon runners use the same 180 steps per minute that 5k champions do and they each go at very different speeds. The only real difference is their stride length and forward lean which determine their speed.
This makes a lot of sense actually. The faster your foot turnover is while hitting the ground, the less time you spend in contact with the ground. This means less friction with the ground, less pressure on your feet, more “air time” and overall more forward movement with less energy spent on overcoming the time you spend “standing” with your feet on the ground.
As a runner you want to get as close as possible to this cadence so that your running is as efficient as possible. You can always measure your cadence with a metronome (see accessories section), but that can be very annoying after an hour or so of running and hearing the constant beeps.
You can also use music to help you keep your cadence and that’s why the music BPM is important. By running to the beat of the music, you’ll immediately notice how your cadence changes. If the song has a fast beat (e.g. Bonnie Tyler – “Holding Out for a Hero”) you’ll find that your cadance will go up. If you listen to a slow opera, you’ll find that your feet touch the ground more often, and you’ll immediately notice yourself slowing down.
Once you get the hang of it, you can actually build playlists for yourself with songs that have the right BPM for the right running situation.
Next I will share information that will help you learn how to build a BPM optimized running playlist