For Good Running Form, Step In Time To Queen's "We Are The Champions"

What do you like to listen to when you run? Do you like an energetic playlist to pump you up? Do you put on a few science podcasts, like this particular Curiosity editor? Or do you go without, just happy to hear the sounds around you? If you're in the music camp, we have a recommendation to add to your playlist: anything with a tempo of around 180 beats per minute. Moving your feet at that tempo can bring all sorts of running benefits.

A Rule Of Thumb, Not A Rule In Stone

The man responsible for this magic number is legendary running coach Jack Daniels. When watching distance runners at the 1984 Olympics, he noticed that they all kept a stride rate, or "cadence," of at least 180 steps per minute. This observation was immortalized in the ever-popular book Born to Run, and it spread like wildfire through running circles.

It should be noted that Daniels made this observation about the best of the best, not your average weekend warrior. He also said at least 180 steps per minute—it was a minimum, not an average. When they're really pushing to win an event, elite runners have been known to reach the low 200s with their cadences.

Even still, everyday runners can benefit from Daniels's observation for some important reasons. Quickening your cadence can keep you from making your steps too large, something experts call overstriding. According to Runner's World, "Reaching forward so that your front foot lands 'too far' in front of your center of mass makes you slam your foot down and brake with each stride, lowering your efficiency and raising your risk of injury." That's regardless of how fast you run. While 180 steps per minute isn't a hard and fast rule, experts say that a cadence of 160 or lower is a sign you may be overstriding.

Compile Your Playlist

You don't need to bring a metronome with you on your next run to check your cadence; all you need is a playlist full of music you love. A wide variety of songs are in the range of 170–190 beats per minute (although 65–95 beats per minute works too—just step twice as fast!). "We Are The Champions" is an obvious favorite, but if Queen isn't your thing, there are also songs like "Zoot Suit Riot" and "Karma Chameleon." There are even smartphone apps that will sync your music to your running cadence. Now get out there and run!

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Written by Ashley Hamer June 22, 2017

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