Running economy

by Troy Thompson
(St. Joseph, Michigan, USA)

Can one improve running economy / form by alternating running patterns to minimize heart rate in Zone 1 ?

"Dear Marius,

I enjoyed getting my first 3:15 marathon last fall with your plan. I ran all this winter, "flat" as you recommended, with a long run every week; I'm on track for a 3:10 this spring.

In all zones I've been trying to get my pace up, while keeping the heartrate in the proper zone, so I can track progress. Last week on a 16-miler on the treadmill, I found I was able to keep the pace a bit faster (8:34) and heart rate no higher than 137, by alternating a very low impact/high turnover style with a springier longer stride which captured the calf recoil being developed with the jumpropes. I had to alternate the forms every 15-60 seconds to keep the heartrate down, and it didn't work for the whole 16 miles.

Could you comment on this approach? Is it useful during long runs? Is there a way to alternate running forms in the marathon that can be useful?

Troy Thompson"

Answer: Hi Troy, good to hear from you and nice to hear that training is still going well.

When it comes to running economy/running form (which is really what this question is about) :

My experience is the following - it is hard to influence it and in fact all studies done on it (that I have read) shows a negative impact on running economy if you "try and influence it".

Having said that, I've never tested your approach - and do keep me informed if this works well for you. I always enjoy hearing about experiements like this - do I a few cross-over checks (normal 16 miler also) with it and report back the result !

What I have the best experience with in terms of "running lighter" though, is :

1) Structur your training smarter and more varied like you see in the 100 day marathon plan. This helps your muscular system work "better" and smoother.

2) Add in there treadmill work if you have access to that. It helps you reduce the time you spend on the ground during running (increased frequency of the stride)

3) Light jumps with a jumping rope, 2-3 times weekly gives you a nice elasticity.

4) Reduce some weight on the way - the natural approach like I talk about in the 100 day marathon plan.

You have done all of the above already, so you are well on your way to an "optimal" pattern for you. The 5th thing is simply : run more - more years of good, injury free running to strengthen up ligaments and tendons that just takes time to do.

Thanks for the input here and I look forward to hearing more about it once you have more tests on it.

Kind regards,

Back from Running Economy to Marathon Training Schedule

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How?
Simply click here to return to Questions