What Is Cadence & Should I Track It?

Have you ever noticed how smoothly professional cyclists and runners seem to move? Every step or peddle seems to be in perfect rhythm and they almost seem to glide through the air. Yet, so many of us aren’t aware of one of the simple reasons that they are able to do this, which is cadence. So, what is cadence and should I be tracking it?

What Is Cadence & Should I Track It?


What is cadence?

Cadence can vary dependant on the sport you are tracking it in. Cadence, in a nutshell, is basically how many times you do a particular movement in your selected sport. So, you could say the higher cadence you have in your particular sport, the better. If you can increase your cadence then you can expect a much more powerful movement. Although, some do prefer a lower cadence and opt to keep a consistent and smooth pace. Below I will explain how cadence is tracked in cycling and running and then give an overview of why I feel you should be tracking it.

Looking for a GPS watch that tracks cadence? Check out my review of the Garmin Fenix 5.

Cadence in cycling

Cadence in cycling is used to measure the number of revs per minute (RPM) you are doing. Revs, shortened from revolutions, is when the peddle does one full turn, or in cycling terms, one full revolution. So, your cycling cadence would be determined by the number of revolutions per minute you do.

Factors of determining your cycling cadence?

I think you first have to look at where you are cycling, or the conditions in which you are in before trying to determine what is the best cadence in cycling. A couple of examples of this would be if you were cycling downhill quite frequently, or if you were up against strong winds. If either of these were a factor, then it would have an adverse effect on the number of revolutions per minute you are doing.

Another factor to bear in mind with cadence is the selected gears you use when cycling. So, you could have a fairly low cadence, but because of how high your gears are, you are actually putting in more effort. If you were to put that much effort in on a lower gear, then you could expect to see a much higher cadence.

How can I improve this?

You first need to find out what your cadence is. There are a couple of ways to do this. Through a GPS watch, cadence sensor or simply just working it out in your head. For me, the best time to measure your cadence is after doing the same route multiple times (measuring it each time you completed the route). This way you can have more confidence in the results you receive.

Another way to improve your cycling cadence would be to really push yourself against the higher gears. I’d recommend doing this on a less obstacle orientated route. Simply because you want to be avoiding slowing down whenever possible. But the idea here is to try and keep a consistent pace, in a higher gear, for a set amount of time. This will really help you increase your cadence when you do return to your favourable gear/s. If you really do want to improve your cadence in either cycling or running, then there are tools to help you out and these will be listed at the bottom of this page.

Cadence in running

Cadence in running is used to measure the total number of steps per minute (SPM) you are taking. The average runner probably does anywhere between 150 – 170 steps per minute, with more experienced runners reaching up to 200.

Factors of a determining your running cadence

The factors of a good running cadence are very similar to that of the above factors for cycling. Things such as the weather conditions or environment you are running in will all factor in your overall running cadence. If you’re looking to find out your average cadence, then it needs to be in fair conditions. What I mean by that is, don’t go on a quick run around the park and then follow that up with a 5k. Your results are going to vary.

The next thing to look at would be the type of running that you do. Are you long or a short distance runner? If you are running long distance, let’s say 10k, then your SPM is going to be much less than that of a 100m runner. The 100m runner will be going at full speed for the entirety of their race, bringing their SPM to a very high number. Whereas the 10k runner will need to be reserving energy. They will most likely only be at around 30/40% of their maximum speed for the majority of the race.

How can I improve this?

Just like cycling, you first need to identify what your cadence is. I’ll mention it again, you can identify this through a GPS watch, cadence sensor or simply just working it out in your head. Once you know what this is, you should look to have steady improvements over a period of time. You shouldn’t look to have a 160 cadence one day and then hope to have 185 within a few days. It’s just not gonna happen! Set yourself some steady goals to accomplish i.e. increase my 5k cadence by 10% within the next 40/50 days. This way you have something to strive towards and hopefully reach.

What can I use to track cadence?

First off, are you someone who is regularly cycling, running or generally loves sports and fitness? Then I’d recommend looking at a GPS watch. A GPS watch has loads of features to help you track various things such as cadence, heart rate, pace, timing and a load of other things. They are the perfect gadget for anyone who is looking to improve their fitness and better themselves every day. If that’s something you may be interested in, feel free to check some of my GPS watch reviews here: Latest reviews.

If a GPS watch isn’t really what you’re looking for to track your cadence, there is an alternative you look at which would be a cadence sensor. A cadence sensor is typically only used for cyclists and doesn’t offer much for runners, unfortunately. But if you are a cyclist, then here’s how they work. You attach the cadence sensor to your bike, wherever it is best suited, then start to track your cadence. It’s really that simple. Some cadence sensors will also come with the ability to track your cycling speed, which could be something you also want to track. If a cadence sensor sounds of interest, then I’ll leave a link here for one that I picked out from Amazon: Garmin Bike and Speed Sensor.

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