Monday, March 7, 2011

The economy of running ....

The economy of running

Monday, March 7, 2011 11:37 AM
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"mircea olaru"

The economy of running

I’m shivering away here in my kitchen in Istanbul. The heating went out overnight in my apartment and my dream of the cold spell being broken by an unexpected blast of Caribbean-type sun has failed to materialise. My enthusiasm for today’s gym session with the lads is undiminished however, although I am thankful I’ve not got any beach recovery sessions planned!

I’ve got a couple of the young players in the gym with me today. The senior squad played last night and so I’m taking advantage of the quiet training facility to lead some strength sessions for the fringe players. Specifically, I have told 7 young midfielders that we are going to lift this afternoon.

A midfielder in soccer can be expected to run up to 13.5km in a match at an intensity that is close to the lactate threshold. For these players, soccer really is an endurance sport. They train a little differently to how I get the central defenders or strikers to train. These guys cover less ground but reach higher peak running velocities, and so their training is more focused on power development.

In addition to the aerobic power development work we do, I am a big believer in the efficacy of strength training for improving running. I have transferred this outside the soccer environment to middle and long distance runners as well, so it’s a philosophy that extends beyond the team sport environment.

"Strength training improves endurance because it reduces the energy cost of running."

We know that strength training improves running economy. Running economy is a physiological term that describes how efficiently you utilise oxygen when running at a given pace. For well-trained athletes, simply increasing the amount of running you do will probably yield very modest improvements, simply because you have probably gone close to maximising that area for improvement already. Adding strength training however is something that many have not done and so this is likely to open a new window of adaptation.

Strength training improves endurance because it reduces the energy cost of running. The load imposed on the body through landing becomes a lower percentage of what the body is capable of withstanding, simply because it is stronger. Think of it this way: when someone starts to squat, their maximum may be 80kg and they may be able to do 8 repetitions at 50kg before they fatigue. As they get stronger, their max increases to 100kg and they can now do 14 repetitions at 50kg and the energy cost of doing 8 reps at 50kg is much less.

The drills I’ll be using today are squats (primary exercise) with lunges, Nordic curls and box jumps (accessory exercises). In a soccer setting, it’s difficult to do controlled studies but I have seen enough over the years to know that this combination, particularly in young athletes, is a very effective one.

Speaking of young athletes, next week we’ll have a look at strength training for children and youths and discuss whether it’s a good idea or not.

'Til then, stay robust, amigos!


David Joyce

Injury and Performance Consultant at Galatasaray FC. Holds a Masters in Sports Physiotherapy and a Masters in Strength and Conditioning. He also lectures on the MSc in Sports Physio course at the University of Bath.


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Articles and Downloads

Running Economy: how to become a more efficient runner

In many sports, speed is an important attribute and ways to improve speed are sought after. In a simplistic view, to improve speed you need to increase stride length and/or strike rate. Many athletes and coaches initially concentrate on improving stride length only to find that both strike rate and speed decrease.

Strength training for distance runners

Can lifting weights help middle distance runners run faster or further with no corresponding improvements in aerobic fitness? James Marshall looks at the evidence.

Later this week...

Look out for a special message from Sports Performance Bulletin regarding a new, strength training report from Peak Performance. A must-have for all serious runners and running coaches.

Strength Training for Runners is a a ‘pre-conditioning’ routine that will iron out the most common running injuries, improve and strengthen your running (and other) muscles in your warm ups and provide you with some great conditioning advice that will make you a stronger and faster runner.

Intrigued? Click here to find out more.

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