ChiRunning Gears: Working with the Metronome for Range of Motion
The word “gears” in ChiRunning means that to be an efficient runner, you need to have a stride length that's proportional to your speed. If you’re running slowly, your stride length should be shorter, and as your speed increases, your stride length increases along with it – up to a certain point. When you get into anaerobic running (sprint speeds) your stride length levels out and your cadence has to increase. But for running at speeds below your aerobic threshold, your cadence should be consistent and your stride length should vary accordingly, just like the cadence and gears system on a bicycle.
Here’s one of the best, and easiest, ways I’ve ever found for teaching yourself to have a set of gears. Set your metronome to beep at your normal cadence, which should be between 170-180 strides per minute (spm). If you don’t want to listen to that many beeps every minute, count your stride rate for one minute and divide by 3 to get what I call the “waltz tempo.” For example, if you’re running at a 180spm cadence you’d set your metronome at 60 beats per minute and it would beep on every third step you take…right–two-three…left-two-three…right-two-three…left-two-three, etc.
Then, start your warm-up with your metronome beeping, and match your stride rate to your pre-set cadence. Here’s the challenge. Try to run the beginning of your workout without your stride rate ever going faster or slower than what you’re hearing on your metronome. Once you’re warmed up, increase your speed to your normal, comfortable training pace while still matching your cadence. After 10 minutes begin to vary your speed by leaning more or less. As you lean more, be sure to stay consistent with your cadence and it will force you to relax your pelvis, hips, and legs and open up your stride in order to match your metronome’s beat. This is a great way to train your body to increase its ROM as you lean more and it’s also the best way to gain speed without necessarily increasing your perceived rate of exertion. Just imagine what this means. It means you could learn to run faster without feeling like you’re working any harder. If this isn’t in your list of things to accomplish with your running, you might want to consider adding it.
I do a workout like this at least once a week to keep my muscle memory accurate, my cadence steady and my ROM variable. If you don’t develop your own set of gears it’s like riding a “fixy”, one of those bikes with only one gear. Having a set of gears is easier on your body, more efficient, and helps you maintain a mindful approach to your workouts.