7 Ways to Improve Your Running Economy

As runners, maximising our running performance is critical. We seek to run more efficiently with the same or lower heart rate.

Image Credit:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/hckyso/3590459373/

Here are seven ways to fine-tune your body to obtain an efficient VO2.

Slow Running

This method, better known as endurance training, requires you to run with a higher volume at a slower speed. A research cites this as a good way to increase mitochondria, facilitating effective use of oxygen by muscle. It also states that endurance training leads to a ‘learned’ neuromuscular response where the vertical oscillation of the runner is reduced. This means that you save more energy while running!

That’s not to discount the benefits of speed training, which is the polar opposite of endurance training. According to the Law of Specificity, you will be good at that you train for. A good way to go about this is to alternate between the two trainings. These help prepare you for a wider spectrum of runs. 

Strength Training

Strength training has already been well-known to help with running economy, simply because it improves the functionality of the neuromuscular system.

When you’re running, lots of muscle activity occur in the milliseconds before your foot lands on the ground. This is because your muscle is ‘pre-activating’ to increase stiffness of the leg and joints ahead of landing.

The stiffer muscle not only absorbs more shock, but it helps the muscle-tendon unit store more energy. Studies have shown that during a 5km run, for instance, fatigue impairs the ability of the muscle to ‘pre-activate’.

To combat this, plyometric training is needed. This regime helps your ‘explosiveness’ with drills like hopping, bounding, jumping, skipping and sprinting. These exercises improve the muscles’ ability to produce the same force with lesser energy demand.

Barefoot Running

If you are a minimalist runner, the benefits from going shoeless could be an interesting read for you. Our feet possess a unique ability to harness the gravitational impact forces from hitting the ground and turning it into additional energy. However, factors like muscle imbalance and overstretched tendons can limit how much this extra energy can do for you. These are often caused by spending too much time in footwear.

By committing some time to walking or even running barefoot, you begin a rehabilitation process that will ultimately lead to an enhanced running economy. 

Diet

Nope, we don’t exactly mean the “radical weight cutting regime”. Rather, it’s all about choosing the right kinds of food.  Food plays an important part in shaping our bodies, such as in the context of running.

The foods we consume can directly affect running economy by improving fat burning, balancing muscles, increasing circulation, controlling free radicals, and helping to build a better aerobic body. This is where your different fruits and vegetables, seed products, animal milk, and cold water fish come in, just to name a few.

It is also worth noting that consuming refined carbohydrates is counterproductive. These are plant-based foods that have the whole grain extracted during processing, removing fibre and much of the food’s nutritional value, such as B-complex vitamins and healthy oils. These kinds of food include refined bread, cereals, rice and so on. Always opt for whole grain alternatives when stocking up. 

Flexibility

Danish research has shown that running economy can be greatly enhanced by improving the elastic energy return in the leg tendons. By reaching forward with your foot, your Achilles' tendon stretches out before snapping back to a shorter length when your foot hits the ground and rolls forward onto your toes.

This recoil requires no energy as it comes from the stored mechanical energy when your tendon first stretched out. Theoretically, the more elastic recoil you can get in your tendons, the better your running economy. To achieve this, try running up hills, on soft grounds, and stretching out your Achilles' tendons. Introduce these with caution, as overdoing them will get you injured. 

Aerodynamics

A short and simple tweak, this requires changes to what you wear. The faster you run, the greater the wind speed. Therefore, it is important to minimise any material that can be impeding you from running unhindered. Recommendations include short or tied hair, short socks, covered laces, and form-fitting running clothing. 

Strike Rate

Strike rate is the number of times your right foot lands during one minute of running. The goal here is to maximise the number of steps you’re capable of landing while adhering to the same amount of effort given, improving your efficiency and running economy. If you find that your strike rate is less than 90, make a conscious effort to gradually increase that count. You may start by concentrating on quicker, lighter, and more relaxed steps, all while retaining the way your feet strikes the ground. Aqua training has also been found to help athletes with a slow strike rate.

"In everything that we do, maximising what we have is our main aim, and this applies to running, too."

 

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LIV3LY Editor
LIV3LY Editor

Always providing the latest news and reviews in the mass participation sportings scene! If you would like to contribute to our website or have an event to publish, contact us at info@liv3ly.com.

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