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6 Ways to improve running economy

5 tips for orthotics 4 1

6 ways to improve running economy

by  Steve Manning  – intraining Podiatrist & Lvl 4 AT&FCA Coach 

1. Plyometrics and Running Drills

The most recognised way to improve running economy is through regular running drills. They seem to have a greater effect on Novice runners but have been shown to be one of the most effective ways to improve performance fast. Plyometrics is a muscle contraction right after you stretch a muscle under load. This includes skipping, hopping and bounding. This will strengthen the tendons and make them stiffer so that they can store more energy for return when rebounding during propulsion.

2. Improve strength

Stronger muscles will be less strained when working at sub-maximal loads like distance running. However, there may be an increased risk of injury when doing the strength training. Maximum resistance training and steep hills are the best ways to improve strength. Strength must be specific to the performance goals. Being able to do high weights when squatting or doing deadlifts will not transfer well to distance running. Pilates and core stability exercises can improve strength in the stabilising muscles which may have a better injury risk reduction than maximum strength exercises.

3. Run More

As you get more miles in your legs they will move towards better running economy. Better endurance results in less fatigue at the ends of races and you can maintain efficiency. However, excessive training may impact your ideal recruitment and coordination leading to de-training and a reduced running economy.

4. Run faster

The faster you run the better your running economy will generally become. Doing some of your training at faster speeds will eventually spur adaptation to this better technique and running economy. You should not do anymore than 20% of your training at these faster speeds and it is better to do it during repetitions rather than long time trials.

5. Weight management

Distance running requires a high power-to-weight ratio. Each kilogram of body weight is worth about 3 seconds a kilometre in pace. V02Max is calculated as the volume of oxygen absorbed per kilogram of body weight. If you are carrying extra weight then losing some weight will have an immediate impact on your performance. However, this is a big trap for many runners. You can not gain the benefits from training if your nutrition is inadequate. Relative Energy Deficiency (RED-S)will lead to systemic breakdown and eventually to reduced performances. It may also compromise your health well beyond the benefits gained from running.

Note: Find a Dietitian. IF you are planning to change your diet, or struggling to know what to do. Find a dietitian who understands running.

6. Race smart

Perhaps the least appreciated factor in running economy is smart racing. Poor pacing at the start of a long race can increase your metabolism and oxygen demands even after you have settled back to your goal race. I always tell my athletes that 10 seconds per kilometre in the first few kilometres in a marathon will result in 1 minute per kilometre slower in the final 10km. Having a realistic race goal and pace plan and sticking to it will result in better running economy. Another overlooked factor in racing smart is running the shortest possible route. This is the way courses are measured. Losing focus and wandering across the road will mean you are running farther than the race distance.

Margot and Steve are conducting a running form workshop on Saturday 2nd March.

Come along to learn how to improve your running economy.