By comparison, most beginners and recreational runners take only 160 or so steps per minute, which Daniels says potentially puts them at a greater risk for injury. The slower cadence causes a longer stride, which ultimately takes the runner higher off the ground. When the runner’s feet eventually make contact with the ground again, the impact is harder and the increased shock puts more stress on the body.
So if 180 steps per minute is the goal, what can the average runner do to increase his or her cadence? One word: music. Songs with a faster beat will naturally help you increase your cadence. The research agrees; A 2006 study at the University of Plymouth in the U.K. showed that louder, faster music increased participants' running speed.
If you’re struggling to find the perfect song, Spotify has technology that can help. Within the app, you can search for playlists that have a specific number of beats per minute. You can choose a 180 bpm playlist that will match up to one step per beat, or a 90 bpm playlist, if you prefer one stride cycle per beat. Or, in a true measure of just how far we’ve come from the days of trying to run with a portable CD player, you can navigate to the running genre section and Spotify will use your smartphone’s accelerometer and gyroscope to automatically sync the music to your cadence.
Good Music and Great Runs
The right music can provide a big advantage, but listening on the run isn’t always easy. Recently, I got tangled up in headphone cords and dropped my phone (and energy gel) mid-race.
I was given a pair of Jaybird Freedom 2 wireless sport headphones, and they’ve completely re-energized my training. No hanging cords to deal with and they’re adjustable, so I always get a snug fit (no sweaty, constant shoving of the earpiece into your ear as it relentlessly tries to fall out). And since the battery life can power up to four hours of music, plus an extra four with the charging clip, I know they’ll last through even my slowest long run. I can even answer phone calls with the integrated microphone—perfect for check-ins with the babysitter.
With a toddler at home, I need all the running motivation I can get, so on days when I’m dragging, I cue up my favorite playlist or podcast and hit the road. I’ve used the headphones for everything from 400-meter repeats on the track to tempo runs. And since the Jaybirds are sweat- and water-resistant, I can wear them no matter what the weather forecast or my training plan holds.
My marathon is just a few weeks away, and while I’m excited to take in the sights and soak up the cheering crowds, I know there will be a point in the race (probably around mile 18) when I’ll turn the volume up and let the music distract me from my aching quads.
And as for the playlist? Here’s hoping it’s good enough for a PR.
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