Your Running Economy
Yes, marathon fees have definitely gone WAY up in the past few years but it still has nothing to do with your "running economy"!  Back in the day, not only were marathon fees less, so was everything else that went with it!  Now we have heart rate monitors, special running shoes that cater to each foot and devices that can talk to you while running!  Do not read this wrong, I have ALL the gadgets a runner freak could have and I want more!  It just amazes me how much scientific study has gone into running and the number of runners that are out there now! It’s a GREAT thing!

Even though you may have all the gadgets and shoes, that is just one way of getting us out there to train more efficiently.  There is also the scientific side of it all.  How your body moves and operates while in motion. The human body is fascinating and the more you know, the more you can train smart!

One term you may already be familiar with is VO2 max.  VO2 is the volume of oxygen muscles can consume per minute. Even though many runners are familiar with VO2 max, it is not the optimal way of measuring your oxygen intake.  You can put two runners side by side and measure their VO2 max.  Their levels may be the same but why would one runner run faster or longer than another?  Well, just like each person is different, so is the “make up” of each person’s VO2 max.  It is genetically linked, so blame your parents!

Next, you can measure lactate threshold.  This is a more effective way to help train runners because it has a greater influence on performance and is more responsive when training.  Your lactate threshold is the point during a run or exercise at which the work becomes so intense that muscle cells cannot produce the additional energy aerobically and so the body begins to rely more and more on the anaerobic glycolytic systems to produce ATP.  This is the point when you begin to feel the burn in your legs.  Normally on your long runs, you train at lactate levels to increase endurance.  So, your pace is 10-15 seconds per mile slower than your 5K pace and for serious runners 25-30 seconds per mile slower at a 90% max heart rate level.

Last, we have what scientists call "running economy".  This I found fascinating because it just makes sense and you can train yourself to become a more effective runner. Your running economy is volume of oxygen consumed at sub-maximal speeds.  Runners can have similar VO2 max levels but with running economy it is the amount of oxygen used when running based mainly from how much muscle mass you carry.   For example, a Kenyan runner is typically lighter in muscle mass than an American runner.  You need oxygen when moving muscles and since they carry a lot less muscle, their oxygen intake is more economical.  Check out a Kenyan runner's legs compared to an American runner.

If you are a marathoner, your running economy determines your running performance because it can indicate how hard you are working in relation to your maximum ability to use oxygen.  How can you improve your running economics?  Research has shown that running higher mileage (more than 70 miles per week) is a start.  So working your way up to 70 miles per week along with a healthy diet can definitely improve your running economy.  Just like any sport, when you put more into your workout and watch what you eat, you will start to lose fat and gain lean muscle.  Also, interval training and tempo runs can improve your running economy as well.  When training for a race properly and improving the way that your body intakes the necessary oxygen needed, the more effective a runner you will become. 

Make sure before you start any running workout you talk to your doctor, local fitness trainer and/or running coach.  They can determine where you are now and how to improve your running economy.  Also, if you are running 30-40 miles per week and you want to test the study above, make sure you take the right steps when increasing your mileage.  Do not go from 0 to 60 within a week.  You can easily get injured and negatively affect your training.  For more great information on marathon training and workout plans check out Jeff Galloway’s “MARATHON!” Book and more at!

Posted on March 27, 2013 and filed under "VO2 max", "economy", "lactate threshold", "running economy", "running", "training".