The Running Edge: A Guide to Running

Rhythm and Running By Coach Ashley Toussaint

Rhythm is Everything

Rhythm is such an integral part of my running success. We all have internal and external rhythms; our breathing, our heart beat, our walk, our talk. We all perform these voluntary and involuntary movements naturally. Running is no different. Running is a natural function, dating back to our earliest survival instincts. Our ancestors ran when they were hunting, as well as when they were being hunted. Today we run for PR’s, shiny medals or for the shear love of it. Either way, rhythm is everything.

Stride and Cadence

Our natural running rhythm is orchestrated through stride and cadence.

  1. stride– the length of a step or manner of taking steps in walking or running (stride can be interchangeable with gait).
  2. cadence– rhythmic flow of a sequence.

The key is to find your optimal stride length and cadence frequency. When you open or widen your stride, you can cover more ground with the same amount of steps than someone with a shorter or tighter stride. A quicker cadence combined with a long stronger stride can help you cover significantly more distance than someone with a slower cadence. The key is to not over-stride or under-stride. Furthermore find the cadence that you can maintain without breaking-down. As you master your foot speed, you can train yourself to increase your cadence. When you put it all together, you will begin to run more efficiently and with more ease.

If you have ever found yourself running for minutes or miles without remembering how you arrived at your particular location or destination, then you’ve probably tapped into your natural running rhythm. Some runners use external assistance from music, while others listen to their breath and the sound their feet makes, when striking the ground. I personally love music on my training runs. However, I have always run my fastest races when I listen to my body’s natural rhythm.

Kenyan runners training. Kenya produces the most efficient runners in the world. What do you notice about their strides? (Image taken from Canadian Running Magazine 2020)

How to Find Your Rhythm

You typically won’t find your rhythm until your body is warmed up. So midway through your run or once you break into a good sweat, focus on numbers 2-4.

  1. Go on your next 3 runs without any devices.
  2. Focus on our breathing
    • Do you take shallow or deep breaths?
    • Do you breath loudly or calmly?
  3. Focus on your feet
    • Do you tap, pound or drag your feet?
  4. Focus on your arms
    • Do you swing forward and backward or side to side?
    • Are your shoulders loose or relax?

Reflect

For the next few runs, commit to finding your rhythm; your sweet spot. Once you get a better sense of when your legs slow down and when your breathe gets away from you, slowdown, gain control. Figure out what is working and what is not. It is up to you, to find your rhythm. And once you do, you will begin to enjoy running like never before.

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