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stride right for running

Distance runners in Boulder Colorado
Colorado has great conditions for runners and beautiful scenery as well. Whether you like to run at the park, on trails, or in the mountains, there are plenty of places to fulfill your running desires. When trying to improve your performance, there are a lot of factors to consider. As Physical Therapists, our goal is to improve those factors to keep you running longer, running stronger, and decreasing common overuse injuries.

Did you know there is an ideal running pace to reduce injuries? The magic number is 180 steps per minute, that means every minute you are taking 180 steps, or 90 steps per foot. While this is not true for everyone, elite runners have been found to be more efficient runners when they consistently set this pace. This may seem pretty fast for a beginning runner or jogger to do, but there’s a reason behind the pace:

  1. The slower you run, the more time that your foot spends in the air, the higher displacement your body has over the ground, and the harder you land on your foot. With faster steps, the landing is softer on the ground and the more gentle you are on your joints: ankles, knees, hips, even your low back. Increasing pace also promotes landing on your mid-foot instead of your heel. Mid-foot landing (as well as forefoot landing) also reduces stress on your joints. Therefore, by having less force and impact on your joints, you are protecting your body from overuse.

  2. Another reason for promoting this higher stride rate is that it is more efficient for your body. This has to do with the force it takes to push off from the ground. The more time your foot is in the air with slower speeds, the decreased amount of force you have to push your body forward. The more time your other foot is on the ground, it is not propelling you forward, but keeping you stuck on the ground. The quicker the stride, the higher the turnover rate is pushing you forward.

How do I stay at that running pace? One way is to count the number of times one foot hits the ground in one minute.  If you count 90 steps on one foot in one minute, both feet are stepping 180 steps per minute. Running on a treadmill is one way to set your stride and keep the speed the same for training purposes. Another way is to listen to music which has a consistent 180 beats per minute and run to the beat of the music.  Here are a couple websites that list 180 bpm songs:

Practice makes perfect and there are plenty of places to practice around Colorado. As always, if you have questions or would like to have a running assessment performed by the Physical Therapists at Atlas Physical Therapy, please call us to schedule an evaluation.  

Brianna Wahl, PT, DPT, OCS