Improving Running Economy
Economy, refers to the efficiency of your movements: how much oxygen usage you use while running. Athletes who carry out given exercise without extraneous movements will be efficient, or economical. It only makes sense that an athlete who moves efficiently will be faster than one who does not. The economical athlete has fewer muscle contractions per stride, and uses less oxygen to go a given distance than the uneconomical athlete. Since oxygen usage is an indirect indicator of the amount of fuel burned, and economy is a measure of fuel expenditure in relation to work (like miles per gallon in a car), knowing how much oxygen an athlete uses at various velocities reveals how economical he or she is.
It’s important to note that the longer the race is, the more important economy becomes. In a sprint distance you may be able to get away with squandering fuel because the event is so short; you may be able to simply “muscle” your way through it. It’s easy to spot economical athletes, as they make running look effortless. Body size may also affect economy. Small athletes are generally more economical than bigger athletes. Some factors affecting economy may be outside of your control but there are variable that you can mitigate to improve energy consumption such as:
– Excess Body Weight
– Psychological Stress
– Equipment (running shoes) weight and shape
– The amount of frontal area exposed to the wind
– Subtle variance in technique
Subtle variance in technique, is what we’ll tackle first:
1. Minimize Ground Contact Time
As time in contact with the ground decreases, power increase. If, when your running shoe comes in contact with the road, you linger just a split second too long, the applied power drops, which shorten your stride. The idea is to spend very little time with your feet on the ground.
2. Land Midfoot to Forefoot
To decrease ground contact time, you have to change the way your foot initially lands with each stride. Midfoot to forefoot landing minimizes the time your foot spends on the ground and enhances the rebound effects while keeping the brakes off. Most slow runners use a heel landing. Just before the foot strikes the ground, the knee is extended with the foot leading and the toes pointing up. It’s exactly the same thing you would do if you were trying to stop/break. It requires a considerable amount of power to re-accelerate from braking.
3. Focus on Horizontal Movement
Bouncing up and down with each step is a big energy waster. Minimize vertical movement by taking quicker stride. Convert energy stored by landing forward on the foot must be converted to horizontal, not vertical, movement. Another technique that promotes horizontal movement rather than vertical movement is leaning from the ankle. A straight line should be able to be drawn from the ear through the hips. There’s no bending at the waist to achieve a forward lean
4. Increase Turn Over Rate
Increasing your cadence will minimize your vertical displacement, allowing more frequent contact with the ground. Move your feet up and down rather than swinging forward and backward. With this technique the recovery foot is lifted toward the butt. The short pendulum helps to produce a high stride rate. When the recovery leg is nearly straight at the knee a long pendulum results. The significance is that for the same amount of energy, a short pendulum moves through its arc faster than a long pendulum.
Running is a total-body activity that demands good form and core strength for efficiency and effectiveness. Improving your running posture is the first step to improving your performance. One way to check your posture is to have someone shoot a video of you from both the front and side as you run compare your technique with top runners (check youtube). Decide what needs to be change and to work on it.
Drill: Rope Jumping
Minimize the vertical oscillation and concentrate on raising and lowering your feet and legs. This drill is especially good for strengthening the feet and lower legs as it teaches forefoot landing.