Factors Affecting Running Economy in Trained Distance Runners

Department of Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, Belconnen, ACT.
Sports Medicine (Impact Factor: 5.04). 02/2004; 34(7):465-85. DOI: 10.2165/00007256-200434070-00005
Source: PubMed


Running economy (RE) is typically defined as the energy demand for a given velocity of submaximal running, and is determined by measuring the steady-state consumption of oxygen (VO2) and the respiratory exchange ratio. Taking body mass (BM) into consideration, runners with good RE use less energy and therefore less oxygen than runners with poor RE at the same velocity. There is a strong association between RE and distance running performance, with RE being a better predictor of performance than maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) in elite runners who have a similar VO2max). RE is traditionally measured by running on a treadmill in standard laboratory conditions, and, although this is not the same as overground running, it gives a good indication of how economical a runner is and how RE changes over time. In order to determine whether changes in RE are real or not, careful standardisation of footwear, time of test and nutritional status are required to limit typical error of measurement. Under controlled conditions, RE is a stable test capable of detecting relatively small changes elicited by training or other interventions. When tracking RE between or within groups it is important to account for BM. As VO2 during submaximal exercise does not, in general, increase linearly with BM, reporting RE with respect to the 0.75 power of BM has been recommended. A number of physiological and biomechanical factors appear to influence RE in highly trained or elite runners. These include metabolic adaptations within the muscle such as increased mitochondria and oxidative enzymes, the ability of the muscles to store and release elastic energy by increasing the stiffness of the muscles, and more efficient mechanics leading to less energy wasted on braking forces and excessive vertical oscillation. Interventions to improve RE are constantly sought after by athletes, coaches and sport scientists. Two interventions that have received recent widespread attention are strength training and altitude training. Strength training allows the muscles to utilise more elastic energy and reduce the amount of energy wasted in braking forces. Altitude exposure enhances discrete metabolic aspects of skeletal muscle, which facilitate more efficient use of oxygen. The importance of RE to successful distance running is well established, and future research should focus on identifying methods to improve RE. Interventions that are easily incorporated into an athlete's training are desirable.

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    • "The RE was calculated using the average oxygen uptake of the last 30 s at 3.2 m s −1 . This speed was chosen as it was below 85 % of the VO 2peak for all subjects, which is required to assess RE (Saunders et al. 2004). The v LT was identified as the first significant elevation of blood lactate above baseline levels (at 2 mmol l −1 ), as described previously (Skinner and McLellan 1980). "
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    ABSTRACT: Incremental exercise testing is frequently used as a tool for evaluating determinants of endurance performance. The available reference values for the peak oxygen uptake (VO 2peak ), % of VO 2peak , running speed at the lactate threshold (v LT ), running economy (RE), and maximal running speed (v peak ) for different age, gender, and disciplines are not sufficient for the elite athletic population. The key variables of 491 young athletes (age range 12-21 years; 250 males, 241 females) assessed during a running step test protocol (2.4ms 1 ; increase 0.4ms 1 5min 1 ) were analysed in five subgroups, which were related to combat-, team-, endurance-, sprint- and power-, and racquet-related disciplines. Compared with female athletes, male athletes achieved a higher v peak (P=0.004). The body mass, lean body mass, height, abs. VO 2peak (mlmin 1 ), rel. VO 2peak (mlkg 1 min 1 ), rel. VO 2peak (mlmin 1 kg 0.75 ), and RE were higher in the male participants compared with the females (P<0.01). The % of VO 2 at v LT was lower in the males compared with the females (P<0.01). No differences between gender were detected for the v LT (P=0.17) and % of VO 2 at v LT (P=0.42). This study is one of the first to provide a broad spectrum of data to classify nearly 500 elite athletes aged 12-21 years of both gender and different disciplines.
    SpringerPlus 12/2015; 4(1-1):544. DOI:10.1186/s40064-015-1341-8
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    • "More economical runners use less oxygen than less economical runners at the same steady-state speed or intensity [4]. Running economy is related to body dimensions [2], and the pattern of mass distribution in the body [3]. Previous studies were more focused on the influence of absolute body mass on running economy, describing studied participants as ''smaller subjects'' or ''larger or heavier individuals'' and indicate better economy for competitors with smaller body size and slim legs [2] [5] [6]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objective The aim of the paper was to evaluate the physiological response during running in athletes with similar body mass but different body composition. Material and methods Thirty-three recreational athletes composed three study groups: control, increased body fat (HBF) and increased lean body mass (HLBM). The HBF and HLBM groups were similar in total body mass and the pattern of mass distribution within the body, but differed significantly in body composition. Maximal oxygen uptake and second ventilatory threshold were determined in an incremental test. Physiological response and running economy were evaluated during submaximal runs performed at four different speeds. Results Absolute oxygen consumption during the run was similar in the HBF and HLBM groups, and at the same time, significantly greater than in the control group. Comparison of the groups showed similar running economy expressed as oxygen uptake relative to body mass, and as the amount of oxygen needed for running 1 km. Only the relativization of oxygen uptake to lean body mass showed significant intergroup differences. Work intensity during running was significantly larger in the HBF than in the control group. In the HLBM group, the physiological response during runs at lower speeds was similar to the control group. With an increase of running speed, running economy in the HLBM group became more similar to the running economy of the HBF group. Conclusions Increased body mass resulting from high body fat adversely affects the running economy. In runs that exceed the second ventilatory threshold, physiological response is similar in participants with increased body mass, regardless of their body composition.
    Science & Sports 09/2015; 30(4):204-212. DOI:10.1016/j.scispo.2015.02.005 · 0.33 Impact Factor
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    • "Also, the MFW used in our study was found to result in a better RE than barefoot in Squadrone and Gallozzi (2009), and this may be due to the small protective layer of rubber that reduces the metabolic cost of cushioning the body (Franz, Wierzbinski, & Kram, 2012). Saunders et al. (2004) have suggested that anything above a 2.4% change in RE is a worthwhile improvement in performance. Likewise Di Prampero et al. (1993) concluded that a 5% improvement in RE elicited a 3.8% increase in run performance, suggesting that even changes due to shoe mass are worthwhile. "
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    ABSTRACT: To evaluate the effects of an eight week combined minimalist footwear (MFW) and gait-retraining intervention on running economy (RE) and kinematics in conventional footwear runners. Twenty-three trained male runners (age: 43±10years, stature: 177.2±9.2cm, body mass: 72.8±10.2kg, V̇O2max: 56.5±7.0mLmin(-1)kg(-1)) were recruited. Participants were assigned to either an intervention group (n=13) who gradually increased exposure to MFW and also implemented gait-retraining over an eight week period. RE and kinematics were measured in both MFW and conventional running shoes (CRS) at pre-tests and eight weeks, in a random order. In contrast the control group (n=10) had no MFW exposure or gait retraining and were only tested in CRS. The MFW and gait re-training intervention had no effect on RE (p<.001). However, RE was significantly better in MFW (mean difference 2.72%; p=.002) at both pre and post-tests compared to CRS. Step frequency increased as a result of the intervention (+5.7 steps per minute [spm]; p<.001), and was also significantly higher in MFW vs. CRS (+7.5spm; p<.001). Whilst a better RE in MFW was observed when compared to CRS due to shoe mass, familiarization to MFW with gait-retraining was not found to influence RE. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Human movement science 08/2015; 42. DOI:10.1016/j.humov.2015.05.005 · 1.60 Impact Factor
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