A run coach can be incredibly helpful for any runner looking to improve form, increase distance and boost pace. Of course, not everyone has the desire or means to hire an actual, live coach. That’s what makes audio coaching so compelling, as it gives runners — whether you’re a beginner or long-time veteran — the opportunity to put a “smart coach” right in your ear.
Form coaching is the latest addition to MapMyRun’s suite of product features, and it provides real-time audio feedback as you run, to help you improve your form and cardiovascular fitness over time.
“Most runners, particularly beginners, don’t have the most economical stride — they’re over-striders,” says Ben McAllister, senior director of product for MapMyRun and Connected Footwear. “They take long strides and hit the ground with too much impact, which wastes energy and exposes them to greater risk of injury.”
MapMyRun already offers audio feedback that announces your distance, average speed and split pace, a product that many people find to be highly motivating. But form coaching takes things further by measuring your cadence, stride length, ground contact time, and foot strike angle to translate your energy into forward motion as efficiently as possible.
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Conventional wisdom, and a lot of running coaches, will tell you your cadence is too low. The best cadence for most runners is roughly 180 steps per minute, but that doesn’t take into account individual parameters like height, weight and age.
To find a better number, Under Armour analyzed the best runners to see how their stride and cadence differ from average runners. The data showed there’s an optimal cadence for everyone. Form coaching can help you find, and stay at, that number.
The best way to use form coaching is to begin with UA Connected shoes. Open your MapMyRun app, and it syncs with your shoes. This provides the most accurate real-time data and unlocks a lot of telling quantitative information about your form, including cadence, stride length, foot strike angle and ground contact time.
Once you start running, the app gives you two minutes to warm up. During this time, it calibrates and adjusts its settings to fit your individual style. After two minutes, you’ll begin to receive audio coaching cues in real-time if your form deteriorates, and you’ll be encouraged to increase or decrease your cadence, which helps you run more efficiently.
There are also visual cues via a red-and-green gauge that show you where your cadence lies within your target range. This is obviously less helpful when you’re pounding the pavement outside, but if you’re on a treadmill, you can visualize your form in real-time and see how to tweak your cadence.
If you save your run, you’ll receive a detailed summary, which includes your distance and pace, along with your average cadence, stride length and other helpful data plotted over the course of your run.
Because the app uses height, weight, age, gender and pace to determine a target cadence and stride length range, it’s able to provide personalized tips on how to improve your performance and avoid injury. For example, it’s common for runners to over-stride when they feel fatigued, and that can lead to injury. So if your stride length is outside your target range at any point, you’ll know it.
Similarly, if your cadence is too slow, it suggests you boost that number. Keep running and using the form coaching feature, and you’ll be able to see how you fare on every run and make adjustments as needed.
According to McAllister, MapMyRun data already shows people who connect their shoes to the app enjoy improved distance and speed over eight weeks. Put a helpful coach in your ear to check your form, and you can expect to improve even more. In other words, get ready to set some new PRs.
Whether you want to run your first mile or set a PR, having a plan gets you there faster. Go to the MapMyRun app, tap “Training Plans” and set your next goal — you’ll get a schedule and coaching tips to help you crush it.