Running in cadence helps prevent injuries

  • Published
  • By Dr. (Lt. Col.) Jeffrey Beery
  • 445th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
Hut-2-3-4! Hut-2-3-4! Did you ever wonder why drill sergeants make recruits double-time and follow this quick rhythm? The answer is simple - to avoid injury.

A double-time cadence of 180 steps per minute will greatly reduce the likelihood of shin splints and other musculoskeletal injury in soldiers. It is also very helpful for those training for their Air Force fitness run.

I cannot tell you how many people I have seen injured due to training for the run. I suspect the vast majority of these are due to a running cadence which is too slow.

According to Jack Daniels, not the whiskey connoisseur, but the great running coach, the optimal cadence is 180 steps per minute. In Daniels' book, Jack Daniels' Running Formulas, he discusses watching distance runners at the Atlanta Olympics. All runners shared one thing in common, whether they were short or tall, heavy or lean. That is a cadence of 180 steps per minute. By taking this many steps, the impact is greatly reduced while running. This, in turn, reduces injuries, and also makes running more efficient and faster.

There are several ways one can figure out their cadence. The easiest is to count the number of right steps every 10 seconds. A cadence of 180 would be 15 right steps. Also, one could use a pedometer for a minute and see what the total number or steps are, or there are electronic foot pod devices, which hook on the shoe and can do the same.

Whatever method, it is essential for everyone who runs to make sure they have a cadence of at least 180 steps per minute. I would suggest every time a person runs, at least once or twice during their run, they should count how many right steps they have in a 10 second interval and make sure the number is 15. If the number is not 15, they should eliminate all distractions, such as music, and focus solely on attaining this cadence. Doing so will enhance the running speed and will greatly reduce injury.