Cadence is the number of steps that you take per minute. Most running watches will automatically measure your cadence, however if you don't have one you can easily measure your cadence by counting how many times your left foot hits the floor in one minute and multiplying that number by two.
The general advice is to target a cadence of 180 steps-per-minute when running. However, cadence will fluctuate depending on the speed that you're running at - it will be slightly faster for your intervals sessions, and a little slower on your easy runs. So use this as guidance and not a hard and fast rule!
Cadence is a very useful metric to look at when thinking about running technique. Low cadence has a big impact on your form, with slow cadence often suggesting more of an over stride, which can result in a heel strike and more force being put through each step. This can up our risk of injury.
Increasing your cadence will lead to less impactful steps and lower vertical oscillation, which will in turn help protect your body (particularly shins and knees!) and save energy, allowing you to run faster and further whilst reducing your chance of injury.
Many smart watches also have a metronome feature. The idea of this is to try to run in time with the beat or chime. If you have a Garmin, you can access this feature by heading to Running > Options > Run Settings > Metronome > Turn on. If you do not have a smart watch you can play a metronome on YouTube such as this video or Spotify such as this song.
If your cadence is well below 180 (<160), look to improve gradually over time, aiming for 165/170 at first before progressing to 180 from there.
How to improve your cadence
When looking to increase your cadence, we often think we just need to take more steps but when we try to do this, it feels unnatural and hard work. Instead of purely focusing on the number of steps you are taking, think about your body position, mainly the hips. Use your glute and core muscle to ensure your hips are forwards (posterior pelvic tilt) but also keep your shoulders back and your upper body tall (good posture!).
We would also recommend adding running specific drills to your training schedule. This can be done as a stand alone session or as part of your warm up before your interval or tempo workouts. Here are our favourite drills - the key thing is to take them slow and focus on nailing the body position.