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Maximizing Your Running Economy

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Maximizing Your Running Economy for Peak Performance

Hey Runners,

It’s Dr. Greg, back with another dose of running wisdom to power up your performance on the pavement and trails. Today, we’re diving into a critical aspect of your running prowess: your running economy.

So, what exactly is running economy? In simple terms, it’s how efficiently you use oxygen while running at a specific pace. Picture it as your body’s miles per gallon – the better your running economy, the farther and faster you can go with the same energy expenditure.

Now, let’s talk about three key strategies to enhance your running economy and elevate your performance:

Strength and Plyometric Training

   Building a resilient and powerful musculoskeletal system is fundamental for runners aiming to improve their economy. Strength training, focusing on key muscle groups like the glutes, hamstrings, and core, not only enhances your ability to produce force with each stride but also helps prevent injuries.

   Incorporating plyometric exercises such as jump squats, bounding, and box jumps into your routine can further amplify your explosive power, translating into more efficient strides on the run. Remember, a strong foundation off the track translates to smoother, more economical runs on it.

Increase Cadence for Running Economy

   Cadence, or the number of steps you take per minute, plays a crucial role in your running economy. Research shows that increasing your cadence can lead to reduced ground contact time and less vertical oscillation, ultimately minimizing energy wastage and improving efficiency.

   Aim for a cadence of around 170-180 steps per minute, adjusting as needed based on your individual biomechanics and pace. Focus on quick, light footfalls, maintaining a rhythm that feels natural and sustainable. Gradually increasing your cadence over time can lead to significant improvements in your running economy and overall performance.

Slowly Build Mileage and Fitness

   It takes time to improve form and fitness, both of which improve running economy. We don’t expect a baby learning to walk to have the most efficient and accommodative gait from day 1. Likewise it will take time, patience, and practice to improve your running gait. Meaningfully improving aerobic fitness requires slow, consistent increases in mileage over longer periods of time (>3 months!). Patience and consistency are key as you gradually build your mileage and fitness levels. Avoid the temptation to ramp up your training too quickly, as this can lead to overuse injuries and setbacks.

Instead, follow a structured training plan that includes a mix of easy runs, tempo runs, long runs, and rest days. By progressively increasing your weekly mileage and incorporating variety into your workouts, you’ll not only improve your cardiovascular fitness but also fine-tune your running economy over time.

The Finish Line

In conclusion, optimizing your running economy is a multifaceted endeavor that requires a holistic approach to training and conditioning. By integrating strength and plyometric exercises, fine-tuning your cadence, and patiently building your mileage and fitness, you’ll be well on your way to maximizing your efficiency on the run and achieving your performance goals.

Keep pounding the pavement, stay injury-free, and remember, the journey to peak performance is as rewarding as the destination.

-Dr. Greg

If you need any further guidance or support along the way please feel free to reach out to me directly at, hopefully we see you at an upcoming R2P Run Club – get the details HERE

running physical therapist

Dr. Greg Ellis PT, DPT, CSCS

Performance Physical Therapist 

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