Running plays a massive part in keeping people fit and it also becomes very competitive to many people. There are so many variations to training and lots of different coaches will stress different parts to be the most important. One of the most essential qualities no matter what, needed by a distance runner, is running economy and research shows there is a positive relationship between this and performance. It can be defined as the energy demand for a given velocity of submaximal running, basically meaning it’s a measure of how much energy you use while running. So, if you are using less energy to take each stride, it means you’ll be able to run further and for longer.
Regular training methods like fartlek, cycling etc. are all great and should not be stopped, but here’s how to specifically improve your economy…
You can run every day for years and you may not improve, this is because you need strength. I don’t mean huge masses of muscle, but strength throughout your body to get the most out of it. Strength will not only prevent injury but the stronger your muscles are the longer they can function for before hitting fatigue.
Strength in the core is vital! The core is what holds your body together on that long run, and if that’s strong, it is likely to mean you have less unnecessary movements (like rocking side to side when running). These movements like, rocking shoulders or a twisting upper body means energy loss! You need that energy to run forward, not to rock side to side or twist – so get that core rock solid.
Here are some strength exercises you could try:
- Planks (the best for core)
Power is not only for sprinters and there is evidence stating it improves distance running. Adding power training can boost strength and speed by improving the elasticity of the muscle via the stretch-shortening cycle. This is when the muscle is stretched before an explosive contraction resulting in a more powerful movement. The more powerful your running, the further you will reach on each stride and means you can run at a faster pace.
Injury is a risk when performing these movements, so frequency of this training type should be limited and it is advised you perform on a softened service. It is also advisable you have base strength and an observer before participating.
Easy exercises include:
Jumps – Using the squat position, reach down and extend to jump as high as possible, landing with bent knees. Repeat 20 times to start.
Skips – Single leg skips aiming to land lightly and to gain as much height as possible.
Bounds – Push off the left foot as it lands and during push off, bring right knee to 90 degrees so thigh is parallel to the ground. As you’re in the air, reach forward with both arms. Repeat with pushing off right foot. The goal is to cover as much distance as possible per stride.