How A Simple Change In Running Form Can Boost Your Running Economy

Plus, Exercise Like Your Life Depends On It + Camille Herron Smashes Ultra Records In 6-Day Race

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Here’s the free but abridged version of the Run Long, Run Healthy newsletter. See the links below to subscribe to the full-text edition with more articles and deeper, more specific running advice. – Amby

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Today’s newsletter is presented by The New Hyperion Elite 4 by Brooks. Push limits, break tape, and make noise.

Running Form Breakthrough! How To Improve Your Running Economy

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Running economy (RE) is arguably the most important physiological measure for runners. Yes, you need a sky-high Vo2 max to win the Olympic 1,500m race. But once you move into the longer distances, RE often proves more important.

Also, it’s something that you can improve by years of consistent training, as has been shown in several notable papers. This isn’t necessarily the case for Vo2 max.

Because RE is so important, it’s been studied in hundreds of scientific papers. Beyond that, countless coaches and Internet gurus are happy to dispense workouts and running-form changes that they claim will improve your RE—a measure of how much oxygen you use at a given speed. When your RE improves, your oxygen consumption goes down.

This is important turf. It’s an arena where you’d like to know as much as possible both for your own running and for advising others.

Now, we’ve got more answers than ever. They come from a new systematic review and meta-analysis by several well-known running experts. The review, titled “The Relationship Between Running Biomechanics and Running Economy,” looked into 51 studies with a total of 1,115 runners. The full paper is available for free and I strongly encourage you to take a look.

The review contains more information than I have space for. But here’s a quick summary of what seems most important (and not so important) when it comes to the biomechanics of RE.

  • How/where your foot first contacts the ground—i.e., forefoot vs. rearfoot, a favorite topic of many coaches and Internet gurus—had no effect on RE.
  • Many other measures also had no effect on RE. These included contact time, stride length, and various ankle/knee/hip angles.
  • A smaller bounce (vertical oscillation) “showed significant moderate associations” with better RE.
  • A higher leg stiffness also showed “significant moderate associations” with better RE. Leg stiffness is the quality of the legs that resists deformation or compression as the leg supports your body weight. A stiff leg is like a strong, tightly coiled spring rather than a weaker, less tightly coiled spring.
  • A higher stride rate “showed a small significant association” with better RE.

In general, running economy improves when you use as little muscle as possible and as much elastic recoil as possible. That’s because the muscles require oxygen, while the elastic elements like tendons and ligaments don’t. (Of course, muscle is still important.) Every change in running form also changes the contributions from muscle and elastic recoil, and they usually move in the opposite direction.

The authors believe it may be possible to find running form changes that are additive in terms of improved RE. But we don’t know enough yet to suggest what these changes might be.

More at Sports Medicine with free full text. And here, on this thread at Twitter/X, where one of the authors (Bas Van Hooren) discusses the paper, and provides a key infographic.

RELATED ARTICLE: Here’s How To Improve Running Form Instantly

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Today’s newsletter is presented by The New Hyperion Elite 4 by Brooks. Push limits, break tape, and make noise.

Exercise Like Your Life Depends On It

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Why? Because your life does depend on it.

According to cardiologist Paddy Barrett, those individuals with a Vo2 max in the highest 2.5% of the population have only one-fifth the likelihood of dying in the next 10 years vs those in the lowest 25%. And you don’t have to be an elite athlete to hit that upper 2.5%. You just have to exercise regularly and at times vigorously.

The payoff: “There is practically nothing in medicine that results in this magnitude of survival advantage,” says Barrett.

If you want to feel and perform above average when you’re 90 years old, you can’t get there by beginning at 89. You have to build the foundation in your midlife years to support you for the rest of your days. More at Twitter/X Paddy Barrett.


Camille Herron Smashes Ultra Records In 6-Day Race

How A Simple Change In Running Form Can Boost Your Running Economy 6Photo Credit: Lululemon

I spent much of the past week checking in on Camille Herron and her attempt to rewrite the endurance running records in Lululemon’s “Further” event (a six-day race) in California. You don’t find a lot of six-day races (or runners), but for some reason it has become a classic distance. This may be partly because the mythic Greek ultrarunner, Yiannis Kouros, tackled the event a few times, and in 2005 set a nearly untouchable record of 644 miles.

Herron was secretly hoping to eclipse Kouros’s record, or at least the American male record of 606 miles, by Joe Fejes in 2015. And she had good reason to be confident, based on her amazing 48-hour race last year. In that event, she covered 270 miles to set a female world record. That put her less than 9 percent behind Kouros’s world record for the distance, 293 miles. The standard differential between males and females is 10 to 11 percent in all running events.

Herron hoped that she would get relatively stronger as the distance increased and perhaps show that women have more endurance than men, as has long been argued in various places. If she could actually run more miles than Kouros, she would become the first female to hold an outright world record in a standardized running race.

As it turned out, Herron started strong, amassing an impressive 132 miles in her first 24 hours, and 247 miles at 48 hours. From there, she tailed off with daily totals of 94, 89, 72, and 58 miles. (These are rounded, approximate totals, as full results weren’t yet available as I typed this.)

Herron set numerous female world records en route, and finished the six days in a female world record of 560 miles. The former record of 549 miles was set in 1990 by New Zealand’s Sandra Barwick.

Of course, she fell 15 percent short of Kouros’s magical 644 miles, which doesn’t do much for the female endurance hypothesis. Happily, Herron seems to have an unbreakable spirit, and I imagine she will be back chasing many other endurance records. She may even want a second crack at 6-days in the next year or two. Here’s the webpage with the best results and splits.

RELATED ARTICLE: Women And Ultrarunning: Why Women Make Awesome Ultra Runners

SHORT STUFF You Don’t Want To Miss

Ozone therapy?!: You read that right–ozone therapy. It’s a controversial, non-FDA-approved therapy. According to a new paper, it can be successful at treating osteitis pubis, a runner injury that has proved difficult to treat with conventional methods

HERE’S WHAT ELSE YOU WOULD HAVE RECEIVED this week if you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.” Why not give it a try? SUBSCRIBE HERE.

  • Everything you need to know about atrial fibrillation in runners
  • How to build a training program that’s guaranteed to succeed
  • Mind over matter: What’s the truth about all those mental strategies?
  • Why all running paces are important
  • Does sodium bicarbonate improve endurance performance (or only sprints)?
  • Trail runners need help with their fueling strategies
  • Get this! Exercise before bed could help you learn a new language
  • How to find a doc who understands the importance of exercise
  • An inspirational quote from Dr. George Sheehan on how running adds to your life potential

DON’T FORGET: I spend HOURS searching the Internet for the best, most authoritative new running articles, so you can review them in MINUTES.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading. RLRH will not be published next week. The next edition will be on March 29.

Photo of author
Amby Burfoot stands as a titan in the running world. Crowned the Boston Marathon champion in 1968, he became the first collegian to win this prestigious event and the first American to claim the title since John Kelley in 1957. As well as a stellar racing career, Amby channeled his passion for running into journalism. He joined Runner’s World magazine in 1978, rising to the position of Editor-in-Chief and then serving as its Editor-at-Large. As well as being the author of several books on running, he regularly contributes articles to the major publications, and curates his weekly Run Long, Run Healthy Newsletter.

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