Home Fitness Gamechangers for Runners : Core Strength and Cadence

Gamechangers for Runners : Core Strength and Cadence

by Gee Ess and Tanya

How to run faster, longer while remaining injury-free ?

…..and that Ladies and Gentlemen is the number one question (albeit in various forms) which bedevils the mind of a committed runner….and like Indiana Jones the quest for the answer takes them to many places – races, expos, training sessions, classes, books….Google is God, Youtube and endless gyan from experienced runners. So we at Wellthy.fit  put a gun to our heads and thought about what would be our New Year Tip to the committed runner to give a gamechanger answer to the eternal question. Bottom line upfront Mr/Ms Runner – focus on the two C’s : Core Strength and Cadence, to make dramatic gains. Somehow, these two check all the boxes : speed, stamina, running form, injury prevention… Max gains!

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What is the Runner’s core?  For a runner the core consists of the abdomen, back, pelvis and hips. The image from Apex Osteopathy is self-explanatory.

How will a strong core help a runner? The core muscles are the FOUNDATION…THE POWERHOUSE…THE DRIVE behind strong and injury-free running. A strong core translates into good running posture, more muscle power, balance and flexibility. The beautiful effortless running feeling as an integrated whole comes from a strong core. Direct impact – faster and injury free running. Indirect impact –  greater stamina and endurance. Side effect – washboard abs !

How to develop a strong runner’s core?  Google the magic words, ‘Core strength for runners’ and it will bombard you with about 14,60,000 results. Routines, exercises galore for the beginner, intermediate and elite runner.  Some pointers :-

  • Focus on core endurance and not core strength. Your core muscles must hold up for the entire run !
  • Train the core as an integrated whole and not as an isolated muscle. Our preference – free hand exercises, pilates, yoga and Kettlebells for you gym rats.
  • Brace yourself while training – act as if you are being punched while performing exercise to get best results.
  • When – a few exercises to engage your core during your warm-up, conscious effort to run from the core, core building as a part of your post-run stretches and one dedicated core strengthening session per week.
  • Try planks and glute bridges for 21 days – the results will surprise you.

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What is cadence? Simply put, it is the number of steps per minute (spm). Elite runners typically have a cadence in-excess of 180 spm (Haile Gebrselaisse – 197, Meb Keflezighi – 203, Desiree Davilee – 194). Most beginner and recreational runners have an average cadence of 160 to 170. Use a runner’s watch or heart rate monitor to measure it or simply use a timer and count your spm.

What is the ideal cadence? The oft quoted Coach Jack Daniels book, ‘Running Formula’ puts it at 180 spm. While this magic number is being hotly debated on the internet, the fact remains that a 5% -10% increase in your cadence brings significant improvement in timings and injury prevention. It is the ideal mix of high cadence and stride length which will bring best results. That said, higher cadence is preferred over longer stride length due to reasons of endurance and injury prevention.How will an increased cadence impact my running?

  • Injury Prevention – shorter strides leading to less impact forces and loading on joints.
  • Improved Running Form – shift from heel strike to mid-foot strike.
  • Easier to build up speed. Better running efficiency and lesser fatigue.

How to increase running cadence ? Google is your friend. Say hello and find your answers. Some tips :-

  • Focus on smaller steps rather than running faster. Initially this will feel strange, but it will become natural with time (4-6 weeks). Intervals and downhill sprints are good for starters.
  • Use a runners watch or smartphone based metronome to monitor the cadence while running.
  • Use the correct arm-position. If your arms are too low it will be quite difficult to keep your cadence high.
  • Lighter shoes – faster cadence.
  • Build up your hip mobility and flexibility to permit high leg turn over. Look up for some great tips https://wellthyfit.com/hip-flexors-strengthening-yoga-runners/
  • Focus on building your glute, hamstring, quad and ab strength. Our cheat sheet – explosive jumping squats and mountain climbers :- 
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We at Wellthy.fit believe that the focus on improving your core strength and cadence will significantly improve the running of the beginner/recreational runner. The challenge is in making it happen. If knowledge was everything, we would all be billionaire marathoners with six pack abs. The two C’s are not very glamorous, initially uncomfortable with slow results. Stick with them to see dramatic results.

You Can, You Will, End of story – Resolutions don’t last, self-belief does. Have a glorious 2017.


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Neel December 30, 2016 - 7:56 am

That’s a very well written and comprehensive article. A reminder, all runners need from time to time.

Arvind Gupta December 30, 2016 - 2:48 pm

Few add ons.
Running is a moving gait . The whole body works in unison . Why not an overall body fitness .Core endurance should be sought . My thoughts are some where it’s replaced by just few exercises and undue focus on it .
Core muscles contracts much before the extremities . It’s a Neuro adaptation . Your simple thought of running will activate the nervous system . It’s in unison .

Your arm reach of left side decides the knee lift of the right side . Important aspect of running biomechanics .Body has myofascial planes to do so .your upper body decides the fate of what happens in the later part of the race .

Cadence do play a role but stride length is double the contributor ..67% to pace . Stride length Is a function of pace . And strides have to do with leg length ( Froude’s number ) and it effects your cadence .Cadence is overrated . Being nimble is enough .

Please pass on the references / study of non elite runners where change of cadence has made difference in foot strike . three fourth of the midfoot strikers are basically heel strikers .

My whole point is nobody focuses running as an act of unison . You need a overrall body fitness for a safe injury free running .

Gee Ess December 31, 2016 - 12:14 am

Thank you for your truly informed observations and comments. Yes, running is a full body activity with best results being obtained when we train all parts in an integrated manner. The core is a classic sum of most (not all) major muscle groups involved in running. A 5-10% increase in cadence by the recreational runner does result in good gains. Ofcourse, the focus on these two has to be within the overall gamut of a well-balanced training program (your point exactly).

Gee Ess December 31, 2016 - 12:17 am

That said, the knowledge and research on running is still an evolving field. We would love to hear your take ! Do PM or mail us. Thanks for making the effort to read and analyse our piece. Motivation enough for us to constantly learn and grow.

Arvind Gupta December 31, 2016 - 4:18 am

yes , it’s evolving .
But it’s losing too on two counts .
Research involves elites mostly and conflict of interests affects the outcome . It’s omnipresent .

I appreciate the efforts you guys put in .
The articles put in a fresh POV , fitness to health and to wellness .
Keep it going . Good day ,team wellthy .fit .

wellthy.fit January 1, 2017 - 6:55 am

Thank you Arvind, happy new year to you

Aprila Bajwa December 30, 2016 - 3:06 pm

Very well researched and written! Informative for all types of runners! And an interesting read:)

Gurpreet December 30, 2016 - 9:12 pm

Having been a okay runner and recently graduating to half marathons was not able to see any improvements despite practice. The performance had reached kind of plateau, wad neglecting this essence of running. Thanks guys for highlighting the same

Raman Kumar December 31, 2016 - 1:00 am


Aman Bansal January 2, 2017 - 4:08 pm

happi new year

Nischint Katoch January 14, 2017 - 1:11 am

Loved it…focus on Core Strength and Cadence.
Thank you for sharing Gee.

Varsha January 18, 2019 - 1:55 pm

Really very informative,

Varsha January 18, 2019 - 1:56 pm

Really very usefull information,plguide about runners diet.


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