Friday, February 27, 2009

Q: How do I run faster? A: Buy a bike!

I have been running with a Garmin Footpod since acquiring a treadmill in September 2007. Originally I purchased it to aid me in using my Forerunner 305 while running on the treadmill; the Forerunner will not work due to fact it uses its GPS functionality for measuring distances.

Out of the box the Footpod was pretty accurate to the treadmill calibration and given that it was a brand new treadmill I had no reason to disbelieve it. I have since proven it’s out of the box accuracy on a track; at least it works for me and my stride length etc. In addition to providing you with the usual data that you can receive, depending on you personal settings, one other dataset that is not standard is cadence.

I had always heard that the way to run faster is to run quicker, that is to increase you cadence (or churn or turnover as it is sometimes called, and using the Footpod on the treadmill I was able to do this. Then last year a friend of mine (thanks Fred) told me that he had been able to use the cadence setting on his Forerunner while being outdoors; to do this when you have the prompt to “Use indoors?” you simply say no…that’s it! You can also then program the Forerunner to beep (read annoy the *beep* out of you) when you deviate from your settings.

The other factor that comes into play is form and I read a really good blog post by ultra runner Rhonda who describes her experience with pain, injury and form here and I have stolen the video from her blog and posted that below, it’s good stuff and worth watching.

Personally I remember watching some video of ultrarunner Anton Krupricka on YouTube and thinking how effortlessly he seemed to cover the ground and without any really thinking I tried to emulate his style which I have (kinda least in my own mind) got down, of course I am lacking all his other attributes; endurance of a mountain goat, weight of 120lb soaking wet and being, what 15 years younger than me etc. And now I can keep up a good pace 7.5 - 8mph or a 7:42 - 7:30 pace with an average cadence in the 85 – 90 range with no real problems for an "average" run, LSD are long and slow and usually on the trails and speedwork is well...speedier, I'll get to that below.

Here's Anton doing his thing:

Look at that scenery; and you still want to know why I run trails....

Anyway as you may know I cross train on a road bike and I also have a Garmin Cadence Monitor mounted (no I do not own any shares in Garmin…maybe I should get some!), in my quest for speed I was told by another friend, Jan, to stop mashing the big gear and get my cadence up, well this I have been working on for the last 6 -7 months and I can now happily (I use happily in the loosest sense of the word) roll along with a cadence around the 90-95 rpm, this the number of times my pedal crank passes a specific point on my chain stay during is rotation within a minute. As a result this has pushed my average speed up; not that you'd know with the amount of cyclists that pass me on the road!

Now this is where the funky stuff starts, there seems to be a direct correlation between the cadence on the bike and the cadence while running with a +/- variance of less than 3%. As mentioned my running cadence is averaging in the 85-90 range. With an average of 90 rpm +/- 3% = 87.9 to 92.7. You can't argue with the numbers.

During my training cycle last year for Twin Peaks I incorporated 6 weeks of speedwork (written about here) which I ended with a 5k race and shaved over a minute off of my 5k personal best finishing in 19:42, placing 5th overall and winning my age group. My average cadence for this race: 93.0.

Since my original purchase I have purchased another Footpod for another set of shoes. Garmin actually sell two versions, the first version, of which both of mine are is a little larger than v2 and requires that you run your laces through it to secure it to your shoe, I understand that that v2 is easier to affix to you shoe by way of a clip. The downside of when I made my purchase was the price and the v2 was always more expensive, now supplies of v1 have dried up and the balance has changed you can purchase, through Amazon, (the source of nearly everything) a v2 for $75 compared to a v1 which is a staggering $185! (I paid $50 for my first v1 and $30 for my second).

So what is the take away from this rambling diatribe is that if you really want to run faster you have to run faster and ride faster…that’ll be another one chalked up to the benefit of cross training then!

PS If you have a minute pop over to Sara's blog and wish Happy Birthday; today's her 30th!


  1. I got my footpod with the Forerunner 50. I like it. It has been pretty accurate with distance, and certainly more accurate than the GPS. LOL... Imagine that. I have also been using it for cadence, with most of my success on the treadmill.

    Do you know why triathletes keep their cadence up in the 90-95 range? The faster spin keeps them from burning up the glycogen store in their legs through mashing, allowing them to run more effectively off the bike.

    Thanks for the vid on form. I enjoyed it!!

  2. That's cool - I did not know the foot pod would record your running cadence!

  3. That's cool - I did not know the foot pod would record your running cadence!

  4. This is all great stuff. I have been thinking and analyzing my running form a lot lately; changing is damn hard.

  5. Although I don't follow the FIRST program I have always taken seriously their recommendation to try to keep up a 95-100 rpm while cycling. Running I keep falling back into the 80 range. I know I have a short stride so I would love to increase my running cadence!

  6. All wrapped up in a nutshell... run faster faster... just do it and push it. You got it!

  7. Great blog, an excellent review of the power of cadence. Thanks.

  8. thanks for the birthday shout-out, Stuart!

    i'll see ya next weekend! :)

  9. Great Post. Thanks for the info.
    I'll say it again: You are a wealth of valuable information.

    I'll keep this in mind if Spring ever gets here and I can finally get on my ride.

  10. Thanks for pointing out that active_dot_com video. I checked out their other stuff... it was very helpful!

  11. the footpod to monitor my cadence has been a huge help for correcting my form. i don't have any shares in Garmin either LOL.

  12. Nice job working on the form, on the run and the bike. Yeah it truly makes a difference. Your running efficiency goes up with better form and less soreness in weird places. As for the bike I'm a masher too and as you probably know already, not only do you last longer faster with a higher cadence but it saves your knees in the long run. Hmm I actually have no idea what my cadence is running though, I don't have any gear that will tell me. I know it's fast because I have short strides. My basic Polar would work with one but I haven't bothered.

    As for your question on my blog. On the weeks I'm building, 3 weeks on 1 week off, I run 6-7 hours on Saturday and 2-3 on Sundays. During the week I do runs of 6-9 miles. The increase in my mileage has been in the miles I run during the week and the addition of the 2-3 hours on Sunday. In the past I only ran one day during the weekend and mostly 6-milers during my weekly runs. Dropping triathlon for the year has allowed me to run more but I do more weight training now for cross training/strengthening purposes.

  13. I love a "gear-head!"

    I'm just trying to figure out the Forerunner 405, let me get used to that first.

    I love the 1st video, good advice to know.

  14. Lots of interesting info. Thanks!

  15. Great post. I'm working on speed and so form is critical. Also, I'll be buying a bike in the next mth and that is the next leg of my journey. With the 2 in 1 combo, you gave me lots to think about. Thanks for sharing.

  16. I love my footpod as well for treadmill running. However, the whole new footpod/old footpod thing sucks from a price standpoint. It's too bad they took something so well priced and hosed it up :(

  17. Great, I suppose this means I have to buy a Forerunner 50 now (the footpod does not work with the 205, right?) I'm confused HAHA Doesn't take much :P

  18. My friend and I were recently talking about technology, and how integrated it has become to our daily lives. Reading this post makes me think back to that debate we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

    I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as memory gets cheaper, the possibility of uploading our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could experience in my lifetime.

    (Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=]R4[/url] DS S3)


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