Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Human Metronome

Lately I've felt like a human metronome rather than just a runner.  I suppose that has something to do with my current favorite iPod track...a metronome at 180 beats per minute.  Yeah, it's a bit boring, but that's the stride rate I'm trying to ingrain in my mind, body, and feet.  It corresponds to the suggested frequency touted by POSE Running, Chi Running, and Evolution Running...not to mention the frequency most elite runners maintain.  Every time I hear the beat, one foot should touch the ground.  Very briefly since the next foot fall is on the next beat!  The high frequency keeps your stride short and under your body.  No over reaching out in front of your heel intense shock to your body.  If you run barefoot, this is the natural stride rate you'll have...if not slightly faster.  The more I run in my Vibram FiveFinger shoes, the easier it is to naturally hit this fast stride rate. 

A couple of years ago when I got into the POSE and Chi Running stuff, my wife bought me a small electronic metronome that I could carry with me on my runs (or stick in my pocket).  It was OK, but at times it was hard to hear.  And the sucker started to malfunction after about one year.  Maybe it was the sweat generated during my runs, the vibrations of constant running, or the shocks when it got dropped on the ground.  Anyway, it got put aside and forgotten...until a recent post on the minimalist running listserv.  The poster mentioned a web site that had free MP3 downloads of metronomes at various tempos.  Very cool.  I downloaded the full set (65-250 bpm) and loaded the 180 bpm track onto my iPod Shuffle.  It's great.  I now start almost every run with 2-3 minutes of this constant 180 tempo beat.  Then a few songs and back to the 180 beats/minute metronome track.  If you are trying to improve your running and remain injury free, get that short, quick stride ingrained in your head.  You can do drills (high knees, butt kicks, running in place) at the correct tempo.  Eventually this stride frequency will feel natural and comfortable.  One warning--do not think quicker tempo is even better--it's not normal to run at 200, 210, or 220 stride rate (except for short downhill sections).  Most coaches would recommend about 180-190 as a good standard tempo.

If you are interested in a more thorough discussion of running stride frequency and form, check out any of the three running sites I list above: POSE, Chi, or Evolution (with their accompanying DVDs, manuals, and clinics).

No comments: