A few years back I ran a 5K race in 27:45, setting a new personal record for myself. I was proud of myself for achieving that mark. At the same time, I felt that I had maxxed out — I thought I’d never run faster than that. After all, I was continuing to get older, and I didn’t envision myself putting in the level of training effort it would take to reach a higher hurdle.
But recently I learned something new about running that showed me how wrong I was. My running guide Mo shared with me a strategy that top runners use: Baby Steps.
The key is to increase my running cadence — the number of steps I’m taking per minute — by taking shorter steps. The exact cadence that’s ideal is going to vary from runner to runner. But a good place to start is with a cadence of 180. That means my left leg has to plant 90 times per minute.
It seemed counter-intuitive to me. But I hunted down some music that had a tempo of 90 beats per minute, and went out for a trial run.
It felt weird at first. Like I was flapping my wings rapidly without much purpose. But it sure worked.
Almost instantly, I found myself running about 15 seconds per mile faster. Without having improved my cardiovascular conditioning at all. As I fatigued during a longer run, I tried to adjust by maintaining my rapid cadence and shorten my step even more.
Recently, I clocked a 5K run in 27:05. (Of course, the bad news is, now that I’m so near to the target, I’ve got to get under 27 minutes!)
All from baby steps. Try it.