In my last post I mentioned that there are several factors which will affect your running speed. Some of these factors are determined by genetics and really cannot be changed much. However, some of these factors can be changed through training. In the last post I mentioned that lactate threshold, or more specifically, the speed at which lactate threshold occurs is a significant factor affecting your running speed. In this and the next post I will discuss another important factor which is…running economy.
What Is Running Economy?
Running economy is the amount of energy you consume while running at a given speed. It’s basically how economical you are in running at a given speed. There are several things which can affect your running economy, such as your running form or biomechanics. For many beginner runners their running form will improve the more they run and thus, their running economy improves. In addition to this, there are several other things runners can do to improve their running economy. I will discuss one other thing in this post and will continue discussing other things in the next post.
How Is Running Economy Measured?
Running economy is typically assessed while running at a submaximal speed on a treadmill. During this assessment the composition and volume of exhaled gases are collected and measured, compared with the composition and volume of gases inhaled to get a measure of the amount of oxygen consumed while running at a given speed. Here is an image of the typical setup and measurement for running economy:
Now you don’t necessarily have to have your running economy assessed. This would have to be done in a lab with special equipment and can be costly.
One Easy Way To Improve Running Economy
An easy way to improve running economy is by performing strides. Strides are quick bursts of swift running, generally for 10-15 seconds. With strides you increase your speed over the entire duration. Try to stay smooth and relaxed. The pace that you should be increasing your speed to depends on the event you are training for. If you are training for a half or full marathon you should be performing your strides at approximately 5k race pace, which for many runners is about 75-85% of their maximum sprint speed.
I recommend performing strides on your “easy” run days, which for most of the runners I work with would be the day before a harder, speed-type workout or long run. I also recommend performing strides the day before an event, like a half or full marathon.
On the days you are performing strides I recommend that you run for 10-20 minutes at an easy pace and then perform 4-8 x 10-15 second strides depending on where you are in your training. I recommend recovering with a slow jog for 60-90 seconds in between strides. Then run for at least 5-10 minutes at an easy pace. Early in your training I recommend performing strides on flat area, but as you progress in your training you may want to perform strides on slight incline or decline.
Why Do Strides Work?
Strides train the neuromuscular system to perform at faster paces than your event. They facilitate the development of neuromuscular coordination and efficiency at high speed. Your body has to become more efficient and economical to be able run at the higher speeds achieved during a stride. Also, performing strides the day before a high intensity workout, long run, or event will help make these runs feel better because the pace will feel a little easier since you did fast pace with strides the day before. In addition, strides “prime” or prepare the body, specifically the nervous system, for faster running. That is why it may also be beneficial to perform some strides before a high intensity or speed workout. Finally, strides don’t tax the cardiovascular system or the anaerobic energy system, therefore minimizing fatigue.
Therefore, I strongly recommend incorporating strides in your training program to help improve your running economy.
There are other ways to improve your running economy, and thus improving your running performance in 2017, which I will be discussing in the next post.
Please feel free to submit your questions and comments in the “Submit” box or in the “Comment” section.
Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald Run Faster From the 5k To The Marathon
Jay Johnson Simple Marathon Training
Road Runners Club of America Coaching Certification Course