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What is Running economy?
Running economy refers to the energy requirements to run at a particular pace. It is usually quantified using relative VO2 (in milliliters of oxygen consumed, per kilogram, per minute). A better running economy means a lower relative VO2 for a given running speed, which means less energy consumption and more efficiency. A better running economy should directly improve running performance by allowing a runner to run faster or longer with the same amount of energy.
How to improve your running economy and performance:
Do resistance training and plyometric training 2-4 times per week, using heavy loads (>90% of 1RM, or <4RM) for resistance training and low to moderate volume for plyometric training. Start with low intensity and volume and gradually increase them over time. Expect to see improvements after at least 8-10 weeks of training.
Do interval training and tempo runs to increase your aerobic capacity and lactate threshold. Interval training involves alternating between short bouts of high-intensity running and recovery periods, while tempo runs involve running at a steady pace slightly below your race pace for a longer duration. Aim for 1-2 sessions of each per week.
Optimize your nutrition and hydration to fuel your running performance and recovery. Consume adequate carbohydrates before, during, and after your runs to replenish your glycogen stores. Drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Eat enough protein to support muscle growth and repair. Consider supplementing with caffeine, beta-alanine, or creatine to enhance your endurance, buffering capacity, or power output. Plyometrics for runners are explosive exercises that improve power, speed, and efficiency by increasing muscle stiffness and elastic energy return.
Plyometric exercises for runners include jumps, hops, bounds, skips, and sprints that mimic the movements and demands of running. Plyometric workouts for runners should be done 1-2 times per week, with low to moderate volume and high intensity, after a proper warm-up and before a cool-down. Runners exercises should target not only the lower body muscles, but also the core, upper body, and stabilizers that support good running form and posture. Strength training for runners can improve running economy and performance by reducing injury risk, increasing muscle strength and endurance, and enhancing neuromuscular coordination.
Here is the link of the systematic review and meta-analysis:
Eihara Y, Takao K, Sugiyama T, Maeo S, Terada M, Kanehisa H, Isaka T. Heavy Resistance Training Versus Plyometric Training for Improving Running Economy and Running Time Trial Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Med Open. 2022 Nov 12;8 (1):138. doi: 10.1186/s40798-022-00511-1. PMID: 36370207; PMCID: PMC9653533.