Baby steps: how I shaved 15 seconds per mile off my running speed

by | Jun 19, 2022 | Exercise, Fitness & Rehab | 1 comment

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.


1 Comment

  1. Laura

    Pretty interesting. And leave it to an old dancer to go find some music to move your feet to when running!


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