Learn to Love Your Metronome

Posted by caseycolahan on Thu Mar 7th, 2013, 3 comments

By Instructor of the Month Coach Steve Mackel

Whether you are new to running or a seasoned veteran, using a metronome can help you in many ways. As Danny Dreyer says, “Start out focusing on your form to build a strong running foundation.” Well, your running form is partially dependent on your cadence. Unless you have perfect rhythm, let a metronome set your cadence (how many times your feet hit the ground per minute).

A metronome is objective. It doesn’t lie and doesn’t get tired.

For the beginning runner, the metronome can help set up good running form. Using a metronome usually helps a new runner keep their strides shorter, making it less likely that the stride will lengthen in front of their bodies setting up a heel strike. The metronome can also have cardio-respiratory benefits. When you move your feet and legs faster your heart rate tends to rise. If a beginner can be patient and work in the 170 – 180 strides per minute (SPM) range , after several week the body tends to adapt to the legs and feet moving at that speed and the heart rate and breath rate begin to adjust downward. In the adaptation phase, the new runner should expect to take frequent walk breaks when heart/breath rates rises. A benefit with be breaking a sweat and burning more calories. As the beginner adapts to the metronome they will enjoy the benefits of less braking, better form, and will burn a bunch of calories.

For the seasoned runners a metronome can make you faster. Remember speed is a mathematical formula: 

Stride Length x Cadence = Speed.

Read any long distance running book and almost everyone agrees that 180 SPM is the gold standard. But running at 180 SPM for hours takes training. It took me almost a year to run an entire marathon at 180 SPM. The fact is, most people run at much lower/slower cadences. Imagine if each of your strides were 3 feet long, taking just 3 more strides per minutes would add 9 extra feet of road covered each minute. In 10 minutes you would cover an additional 90 feet, and in 1 hour 540 additional feet. This translates into speed, and by only taking 3 extra steps per minute.

Improve your personal practice with Danny's metronome of choice

Plus, the metronome helps you pay attention. I know it sounds tedious and many of you would rather run with music but remember, each song has a different tempo or cadence.  Yes, there are websites that say they mix their music so each song has the same tempo but it is pretty difficult to keep the songs sounding good as the pitch is increased or decreased.

Every race that I have set a personal record has been while I was using a metronome. When I get tired it reminds me to keep my feet moving to it’s exact cadence, rather than my foot turnover slowing down . It also reminds me to check in with my body and focus. It is a great tool to help you with your ChiRunning®. Give it a try.

Tags

  • running training,
  • running cadence,
  • cadence,
  • metronome

3 CommentsLeave a comment below

I have been using the concepts of chi running for many years now, but not until today have I incorporated the practice of using a metronome.  I run between 30-50k a week but have never paid attention to SPM, instead focusing on form.  I am 6’2” and 175 lb.  Today I started out at 172 and was surprised at how challenging it was to keep the pace for my 6k morning run.  I think I shaved at least 5 minutes off my usual time!  I trust as you say that my body will adjust, but I also wonder if I should start gradually, slowly building to 172-175.

Hi Michael,

Playing around with cadence can be eye-opening. While you are taking more steps than you’re used to, you’re in the support phase of your stride for a shorter amount of time, which helps prevent fatigue and over-striding. Keeping a quicker cadence should also help you feel lighter on your feet. We do recommend increasing cadence gradually; on your next run, I’d suggest running as you normally do to determine your regular cadence. From there, increase the beats just by one or two and see how you feel. If you feel you can increase it by another beat, go for it. If you feel tired or you can’t hold your technique at that cadence, do you runs at that cadence until it feels comfortable and relaxed. Then, increase by one beat for your next run. A quicker cadence should make running feel easier, so take your time increasing it.

Happy running,
DD

I followed the suggestion in Danny’s book and bought a Seiko metronome last year. I am so glad that I did and now I hardly ever run without it.  Although I was 57 years old when I began running a couple of years ago (and had never been particulary athletic) I achieved a 21:31 PR in my most recent 5k. I don’t think it would have happened without the metronome. My default setting is 90 strides per minute and that does help to prevent over-striding. When I have felt fatigued during races, I have actually increased the stride rate (to 93 or 94) while shortening my stride length just a bit and have found that this helps me conserve energy without losing much, if any, speed.  Having the constant beat of the metronome provides a sense of comfort in knowing that my turnover rate isn’t lagging during the course of a run - one less thing to worry about.  And I’ve had fun, too, using the metronome to track the stride rate of elite runners in marathons I’ve watched on television. Thanks to Danny for a great tip.

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