How To Improve Running Economy
How To Improve Running Economy – Drills and Exercises
When running, be it long, a marathon, or short distance, a 100m sprint, the intention is to run in a straight line. To do this we need to ensure we are running as efficiently as possible. In this article, we are going to show you how to improve running economy.
THE VIDEO: How To Improve Running Economy – Drills and Exercises
Stretch shortening cycle (SSC)
This is a complicated name for something quite simple. During movement, the SSC occurs. This involves an eccentric into a concentric action. The easiest way to explain it is by using a spring. When a spring is coiled, that is the eccentric portion, a muscle or series of muscles are loaded. Once the spring is released, force is being exerted. Think about a countermovement jump. You quickly dip into a quarter squat position to jump up as high as you can. The quick dip down is the coiling/eccentric and the jump is the spring shooting off.
There are 3 mechanisms involved in the SSC.
- Active State: This is the ability to put force into the ground. During running, this occurs from the moment the foot contacts the floor until that foot leaves the floor.
- Neurophysiological model: This occurs when the muscle is lengthened. When running, it occurs when the foot contacts the floor. Having to control that force on landing is known as the eccentric portion. During this time, our body is protecting itself by initiating a response to prevent the muscle lengthening any further as it is worried about getting injured if it goes any further. This results in greater motor recruitment within that muscle to move the opposite way. When jumping or running this would be jumping up or a pushing off stride respectively.
- Elastic Energy: This is within muscles and tendons. During the eccentric portion, our muscles and tendons lengthen, storing elastic energy reflecting the need for those structures to return to their normal length. Similarly, when you pull an elastic band, it stretches and once released it returns to its normal state but the energy that it stored when pulled back causes it to fly off. In that case, the amount of force you can use to stretch the tendons equals the force produced to return to normal.
Application of SSC To Improve Running Economy
In the video, we lay out a series of exercises that you can perform to improve your SSC components. We lay them out in order of importance. The exercises become increasingly advanced so the job here is to start light. Your aim should be to perfect the basics. Many injuries occur when people put their body through high amounts of force too soon, before they now how to absorb and produce force.
Other things to consider when performing these exercises are sets, reps and rest. Sets will often stick to the norm of between 3-6. Repetitions wise, you want to keep this short and sweet. We are talking about producing and absorbing large forces. We need to be fresh not fatigued. Last but not least, ensure you rest long enough.
Aside from actual running mechanics, training can be used to help make you more efficient and improve running economy. It can also help you with stability, the ability to put force into the floor and reduce injury risk. These are beneficial characteristics that can help increase running speed so that you are more efficient at long distance running and make you run faster during shorter sprints.