Want to be a more efficient runner? Increasing your stride might be the answer. Most top elite runners have a stride rate around 180 strides per minute. Checking your stride is really simple. Start running and once you're up to your regular pace on a regular run, time yourself for 1 minute while you count each stride. Don't worry if your stride is below 180. That's where most mortal runners will find themselves. To improve your stride rate, try focusing on your stride periodically during a regular weekly run. Get some arm action going too. If you pump your arms a little faster, your feet tend to follow suit.
Another way to help increase your stride is to listen to music while you run that has a beat that mimics something around 180 beats per minute. Don't have time to count the beats of all the songs on your playlist? You're in luck! Erin Sholl (a Battle Creek, Michigan transplant in Brooklyn, New York) is working on her independent songwriting project: Lady Southpaw. Her mission is using vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, computer beats, keyboard synthesizers, harmonica, accordion, and even a baglama to design songs for running. So far she's written six new songs based on research about music and the brain, getting in "the zone," and developing a consistent optimal running stride rate.
Erin ran her first marathon last fall through Team in Training and now she has her sights set on the 2010 NYC Marathon. While fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society she was inspired to write a song about the experience and give it to her donors as a thank you gift.
At one time Erin was a certified personal trainer so she has a fundamental understanding of running biomechanics and training programs but she's mainly coming from the perspective of a "nerdy artist." She likes experimenting with sounds and bringing together big ideas like the ultimate music listening experience with the ultimate running experience and finding the zone where they meet. So, she did some extra research and took some time to write the songs. Erin's been documenting her progress about what she has so far on her blog—Running Rocks. She's hoping it's only the beginning. You can find out more about Erin and Lady Southpaw on her website.
Most of the running songs Erin's created are written at tempo of 180 bpm but the first one is written at 160 to help you work up to that speed. She says that if you count the number of times your left foot strikes in one minute it should be between 80 and 90 times. Multiply that by 2 and you'll have your 160 or 180 beats per minute. Erin's stresses that you should work on short quick steps to reduce the impact on your joints, helping to prevent injury.
Erin wants to add more songs to the six she's written. She knows you need a lot more songs than six to train for a marathon, but she wants to make sure she's on the right track and make sure that her future songs are something that runners want to hear.
If you'd like to try a free song in return for giving Erin some feedback, write to Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Songs for Running will be released for sale later this summer. Right now you can get the Lady Southpaw self titled E.P. (which is not written for running) from most online music retailers including iTunes, eMusic and Amazon.
Check out the clip below of Lady Southpaw in action playing for runners in the HOHA Classic 5K race in Hoboken, NJ.