Interesting article in the New York Times on exercise and why we are "physiologically lazy...Using treadmill testing, scientists have definitively established that, like other animals, humans naturally aim to use as little energy as possible during most movement."
No surprise there really, but do read on... "when we walk or run, our bodies tend to choose a particular cadence, a combination of step length and step frequency, that allows us to move at any given speed with as little physiological effort as possible." Bring it on I say, anything to make going up and down those alpine hills easier and I am with it!
A study carried out by Simon Fraser University in British Columbia asked volunteers to walk on a treadmill at an easy pace where they measured steps per minute. They then increased the speed and analaysed how quickly people responded. In two seconds our bodies naturally adapt to this change with the amount of oxygen in our blood rising or falling because our muscles require more or less.
One of the conclusions according to the New York Times was "our brains very likely contain huge libraries of preset paces... step cadences for any given speed and condition. It seems probable, in fact, that over our lifetimes... our brains develop and store countless templates for most pacing situations. We learn and remember what cadence allows us to use the least energy at that speed, and when we reach that speed, we immediately default to our body’s most efficient pace."
Now, this is the bit I like ! Findings suggest that MUSIC is one of the best ways to affect the pace of your running or walking. If you want to go faster load your iPod with uptempo music, simply as that. However, do be sensible and build up any changes gradually. A new app has recently been launched called Cruise Control which means you can coordinate your pacing with your playlists.There's also the Nike + app, which is available for iPods, iPhones and Android devices.
The overall impression from these studies, however, is that your body will adapt to the pace which is the most efficient for what you are doing! Love it, go body, go....