Improve your speed using tempo and cadence.

I’d mentioned in a previous post about the importance of developing your speed endurance to improve your average speed over a race. To improve your speed, you must be able to hold your technical form while you are running so that you can execute power with each stride for the duration of the race.

When building your speed endurance and ultimately speed, you aren’t going to improve simply by trying to go “as fast as you can”.

Instead, you need to train your body to hold and execute the movements over longer distances so that it becomes easier for you to race with more intensity over the shorter distances.

To do this, you need to run at a tempo and run with a cadence.

What is the tempo?

The tempo is the average pace that you will be running over a certain amount of time. For example, if you are running 400m, you might run at a tempo that will allow you to complete the race in 60 seconds.

When you are training for tempo, you will train your body to run at that pace. To successfully run at that pace, you need to know the cadence (or rhythm) to allow you to run at that pace.

What is the cadence or rhythm?

The cadence will essentially be the average steps per second. This will control your turnover while you are running.

You want to develop the cadence of your running and minimize the rate of deceleration by maintaining the cadence of your run. But, you will be doing this while maintaining the correct running technique, which will see you run with your ankles coming over your knees and you powering behind with your heel to drive and execute the maximum explosiveness from each stride.

What are some strategies that you can use?

Break your tempo and cadence into stride counts

  • 4 stride count
  • 6 stride count
  • 8 stride count
  • 16 stride count
  • 32 stride count

Work out the tempo per second.

You can try to do the following and then increase the cadence as you become stronger.

  • 4 strides per second
  • 6 strides per 2 seconds
  • 8 strides per 2 seconds
  • 8 strides per second

How can you measure this?

You can take a video recording of yourself and count the strides in the different phases of your race depending on the tempo that you are running. For example.

Power phase


Measure the amount of steps taken in the driving phase. Record the steps taken at each 1-second split and at each 10m phase.

Acceleration phase




Measure the amount of steps taken in each phase. Record the steps taken at each 1-second split and at each 10m phase.

Full stride phase


Record the amount of strides they take once they are in the full sprinting position.

Cadence and tempo phase

60m +

Count the steps between 60-80m based on the athlete running at 95% of their personal best. This should be the benchmark for their running tempo and cadence.

Once the athlete becomes better with controlling their tempo, rhythm and cadence, they will be able to concentrate on being more explosive with their stride.

Due to their increased strength endurance and maintenance of their running tempo, they should be able to increase their stride length, stride rate (turnover), and power in each stride, which will allow them to run faster over the running distance.