Increasing Efficiency: What You Should Know

April 4, 2017

Running Coach Nate Vandervest offers two keys to becoming a more efficient runner

As runners, one of our goals is to become more efficient. After all, if you were on a cross- country trip and the goal was to use the least amount of gas possible, would you rent a suburban or a Prius? The answer is pretty obvious. When running, you want to be able to cover as much distance as you can, as fast as possible — and on the least amount of fuel. The longer the race, the more efficiency factors in. Wasted movement and wasted energy lead to fatigue and trouble staying on pace. 

So how does a person become more efficient? The first — and most obvious — step is to run often. But beyond that, what can you do? Consider adding strength training and plyometric (jump) training to boost efficiency and give you and edge.

Strength training has multiple benefits, and the runner who takes advantage of it never regrets it. With proper strength training, you’ll build better strength and stability throughout the body.  Being able to hold your running posture for the duration of a race equals a more efficient you. With strength training, you will also be able to produce more power. The more force that can be put into the ground and the more force your body can handle, the more efficient you will be. 

Lastly, with strength training your body will become better at recruiting more muscle fibers to lift heavier loads. This pays off in being able to maintain your pace for longer and have that final kick at the end. Think of it this way: When the gun goes off, it takes only a small percentage of your muscle fibers firing to maintain race pace. As the race goes on and you get tired, you have to recruit more muscle fibers to maintain pace. If they’ve never been worked or recruited, they won’t be able to help — and your pace will start to slow. 

Plyometric (jump) training is another excellent way to increase efficiency. Less is more when it comes to a workout like this. Examples of plyometric exercises include skips, bounds, broad jumps, vertical jumps and box jumps. These are explosive, quick, powerful movements.

Plyometric training gets a lot of muscles to recruit in a short amount of time — and as we know, recruiting more muscle is a good thing. The other big benefit is that these exercises train dynamic stability and landing mechanics, reducing excessive or unnecessary motion. Considering the average person takes 1,200 to 2,000 steps per mile, landing properly is pretty important.

How important is this? If you run a 45-minute 10K and become 1 percent more efficient, you will run a 44:33, 27 seconds (and .0038 seconds per step) faster. A little improvement can make a big difference.

So hit the gym and do a full body workout that emphasizes lower body strength, and consider adding a few jumping exercises to your routine. Not sure where to start? Email me at the address below and I’ll be happy to offer advice or get you set up with a good program.

Start today and you could be running faster and more efficiently in time for this year’s Bellin Run. 

Always Running,
Nate Vandervest
Running Coach, CSCS, CES

Nate is a running coach and strength coach who specializes in running assessments, strength training and personalized running programs. For more information, contact Nathan.Vandervest@bellin.org.

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