There are certain numbers that govern our lives. 55 mph. Wait 60 minutes before you swim. Buy 12 bagels, get the 13th free. And for us runners, it's 90. As in, at least 90 steps per minute per foot--180 total steps in 60 seconds-- is the ideal number for a runner; doing so means you're not overstriding, which means you spend less time on your feet, which sends less shock and impact through your body, which supposedly leads to less injury and, perhaps more importantly, more speed with less effort.
Not every coach adheres to this theory, of course, and some people will naturally be able to hit, say, 100 without even trying. (They're the ones, at the front of the pack, whose legs are approximately the size of my arms.) Others are more comfortable in the 80-ish zone. Ding ding ding: that's me. I occasionally count my clodhops--I mean my steps--on run, and without fail, clock in at 80. (I count one foot for 30 seconds, and double that number.) I've had an expert who told me that it's hard for people like us--he clocks in at 6'2" and I'm at least an inch above that--to hit the magic number, but I'm not one for falling back on height-centric excuses.
So I really tried to grab the golden rung on a run about two weeks ago: as sure as my almost-four-year-old can fake cry in a second, I was going to nail 90. I counted my tried-and-true 80 a couple times, so I shortened my stride until it felt like I was prancing on my tiptoes, sure I was going to hit at least 92.
During that minute or so, I did feel lighter on my (tip) toes for sure, but it also felt awkward and muscularly taxing, like the first few minutes of any run does. I couldn't believe cranking out just four more steps per minute felt so dramatically different; I wonder if I could figure out how to squeeze out 6 more if I might actually take flight.
So here's the assignment, if you choose to accept, for this week's Hump Day giveaway: count your steps on your next run. Let us know where you come in, and, more importantly, how it felt. If you do, and you're picked randomly as the winner, you'll win a sweet gift certificate for a pair of Brooks shoes. (Unfortunately, they don't come with a guarantee of a 90 spm cadence. Still, we promise you'll spring along.)
Where do you clock in? Let us know before noon on Thursday--equal opportunity for both evening and early-morning runners-- and you may be clocking along in a new pair of kicks!