Running is a bodyweight endeavor; the supporting leg springs your body several feet (or inches) forward with every stride. The stronger the body (not just the legs), the easier it is to carry one’s weight and propel themselves forward. Economy in running describes the effort required to propel one’s body forward with every stride. Individuals who are physically strong for their respective weight typically have good running economy as they require little effort to move their bodies forward. On the other hand, heavy individuals who have difficulty moving their weight around have poor running economy and require more effort to move their bodies forward.
Efficiency, not to be confused with economy, relates to HOW a person runs. Different running styles can require different amounts of energy to get one from point A to B, and the technique that requires the least amount of energy is the most efficient one.
There are a couple of ways to increase economy. One way is to increase strength while maintaining weight. Stronger bodies require less effort to move forward. Another method is to drop unnecessary weight while maintaining current strength; less mass requires less effort to move. The fastest way to increase economy is to lose weight and gain strength. Regardless of the method, increasing one’s strength to weight ratio will have a direct and positive effect on one’s economy.
Had I known this, I would never have stopped my heavy lifting. I got bit so HARD by the endurance bug in the late 90’s and early 2000’s that my efforts were more focused on swimming, biking, and running. Fast forward 15 years later, I’m significantly weaker and slower. In an effort to improve my running, I’ve attended several running form clinics and feel my running technique is as good as it’s going to get at the moment. My upcoming downhill marathon has made me more aware of economy; I have to work on quad strength to accommodate all the eccentric downhill running. I’ve also got to lose weight as running heavy puts significantly more stress and wear on both vertebral and extremity joints.
I’m back to ketogenic nutrition for weight loss and in the gym doing the following basic movements to improve my strength:
- Squats (double and single)
- Barbell Rows
- Bench and Shoulder Presses
- Heel Raises
I limit my volume to approximately 6 sets of each exercise and lift no more than 2x per week. Reps range from 6-15 depending on the volume of running I’ve already done during the week; I perform higher reps if my volume is low, and lower and heavier reps if my weekly volume is light. 1-2 days of strength training is infinitely greater than none, and I already feel the difference.
My last set of deadlifts on 10/8/2016, 10x #225. It had been a while since I’ve moved this weight and I thought I was cool until seeing the following video:
Outside the gym, there are more specific modes of training one can use to address running economy. I’m currently training hills to improve my economy by placing heavier loads on my glutes and quads. I plan on incorporating some resisted running (sled/tire pulling) as soon as I can get a hold of the equipment, so stay tuned for upcoming videos.