We often here the term running economy or efficiency, but what does this actually mean and how can we improve it?
In the scientific world, running economy is defined by how much oxygen it takes to cover a set distance at a fixed speed. The underlying attributes of running economy are metabolic, biomechanical and neural efficiency.
Metabolic efficiency can be thought of as the factors that impact the production of energy (fuel) for the muscles to utilize.
Biomechanical efficiency can be thought of as the mechanical cost of running and would include how the foot lands and the elastic energy storage and return through your gait cycle.
Neural efficiency can be thought of as the improvement in the communication between the nervous system and the muscles themselves.
Far too often athletes and coaches focus solely on metabolic efficiency and forget the other components of running economy i.e. they run a lot and get really fit but seldom reach their athletic potential. We try to address this by focusing a lot of time and energy on movement quality. We also understand that speed is a spectrum and athletes need to practice becoming efficient across all three of the above factors at different support speeds (both slower and faster) than their goal race pace.
Science of Running – Steve Magness