It turns out if you want to improve your running, then you need to get a little bit frugal…well, more economical shall we say….!
Improvements in running economy can improve running performance. This has been known for some time, though it is is a factor that I see so often poorly attended to in training plans. So, what exactly does running economy mean? Well fear not, it doesn’t mean you have to start buying budget gear and putting an extra 500 miles into those worn out road shoes. Running economy by definition is the energy demand for a given velocity of submaximal running. So if two people have an evenly matched aerobic fitness and have an equal VO2 max (more about that later), but one can run faster than the other at a sub maximal level, then the limiting factor for the slower runner is their running economy, or energy leakage as I like to think of it. This can come from of a number of different areas, such as; how efficient your biomechanics are, how well your body deals with exposure to excess heat, and how good your body is at delivering lovely fresh oxygen to tired tissues! Another area that has been gaining a lot of attention in the research is how stiff you are, more specifically how stiff your tendons are. Tendon stiffness can be thought of how much a tendon changes shape as a force is put through it. Tendons attach muscles to bones and undergo significant forces as we run, particularly at the achilles tendon, the longest and strongest tendon in the body. They absorb force and then release it as we run, a bit like an elastic band. A tendon with adequate stiffness will absorb and release the optimum amount of energy preventing precious energy being lost into the ether..!
So what can we do about all this? Strengthening exercises like plyometrics can be very useful, they will help to develop muscle tendon strength and stiffness, these exercises can be difficult to do and are best done sparingly through the week. Looking at where the weakness’s are is key too. For example, does the achilles on the right side have the same tendon stiffness as the left? Often runners will have asymmetries and it isn’t until they see a Physiotherapist that they realise that the old left ankle injury has not actually healed as well as it should have.
At Great Northern Physiotherapy we are keen to help you improve your performance. Physiotherapist and running Coach Phil Williams has developed a “Runners bootcamp” class specifically designed to address running economy with exercises that will improve muscle tendon stiffness and your performance. Our running lab also gives us the facility to asses your progress with lactate threshold assessment and gait analysis. For more information on how we can help you get better, go to www.greatnorthernphysiotherapy.co.uk or call us 01522 787164.
Health, Life, Performance.