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  • Writer's pictureAnnaka Hogelin

180 Challenge: Sarah Rushing

Sarah Rushing is a fellow graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder, studying piano performance. She started running approximately a year ago and has some great insights into running and adjusting your running cadence.

AH: So you’ve been running for about a year, how and why did you start?

SR: I was home for the holidays, visiting my small hometown in Louisiana and I was really bored. I heard there was a new track, so I thought I would go try it out. In short, I was so bored I started running. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it. It was easier than it had been in the past when I tried running in high school. Also, I hike a lot and I was interested in keeping my fitness level where I ended the hiking season last summer, which is always difficult because I don’t have as much time to exercise during the school year.

AH: Hiking is great fitness too! After I started hiking I shave two minutes off my PR for my 5K. So you have you been experimenting with your cadence, what led you to this experimentation?

SR: I didn’t really know much about cadence, but my app tells me what my cadence is.

AH: What app do you use?

SR: I use the Sports Tracker app, which displays your cadence rate. My friend Robert has given me a lot of helpful tips about running, drawing especially from an injury he had in the past. He encouraged me to increase my cadence speed, which was around 150 steps per minute at the time, to reduce my risk of injury. So I just experimented with it some and I noticed it was actually easier to run with a higher cadence rate. Breathing-wise it was much less taxing. Endurance-wise, it felt much easier too.

AH: Why do you think that is?

SR: I’m sure it’s because I’m using my body more efficiently.

AH: Agreed! Have you had a hard time adjusting your cadence?

SR: No, but maybe because I didn’t have a lot of experience with running. It’s not hard to change habits when they’re only a few months old!

AH: What did you do to increase your cadence?

SR: Robert suggested running with the metronome. I didn’t ever actually run with it, but as you know, I work with the metronome a lot, so I can remember the speed pretty well without the metronome. Before I went running, I would check to see where 180 lies and I would keep that in my head. I listen to a variety of things when I run. Sometimes I listen to podcasts, sometimes I listen to music. I did try running with playlists on Spotify that match your cadence rate, but I didn’t know any of the songs, so it wasn’t enjoyable for me.

AH: As someone new to running yourself, what tips would you give someone who is new to running?

SR: For the last 15 years, I thought that I just couldn’t run. I was really interested in trying to run in high school and I did a little bit, but I was really out of shape and it was super discouraging. I’ve always felt like I’m not a runner, but when I moved to Boulder, I noticed that everyone’s running. I’m really into hiking, and since it’s so similar, I wondered why I couldn’t run. The advice that I received and found really helpful was to find the pace where you feel like you can keep running forever. We tend to think of running as going as fast as we can by default. But it’s not; you can run 12 minutes miles and that’s totally fine. So I found the pace where I could run for 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, then worked up to 30 minutes. Eventually, I found the pace I needed to maintain in order to run 8 miles.

AH: I love it! Do you have any other thoughts about running that you would like to share?

SR: In terms of technique and form, I think there’s a lot of carryover from our everyday lives as well as our lives as performers. A lot of the problems I have at the piano are probably the same problems I have when I’m running. Whatever habits, particularly with posture, tension, etc., you have in other areas of your life are likely to be carried over into your running.

AH: Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with me today, I enjoyed hearing your story today!

Consider taking the 180 Challenge -- I would love to hear about your experience!

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