Running Economy 201


Running economy is one of the essential components needed to improve running performance. It is defined as the amount of oxygen needed at a given submaximal running velocity. So, the more efficient the runner, the less oxygen needed to maintain the same velocity.

A systematic review was recently published in the Journal of Sports Medicine analyzing studies to determine if heavy weight training and/or plyometric training improves running economy.

This is the highest level of evidence available when it comes to different types of studies. A systematic review analyzes data across several studies and accounts for differences between them, either adding strength to the studies’ claims or refuting them.

This systematic review narrowed down their analysis to 16 studies, after excluding ones that used non-endurance runners as subjects (subjects ranged from recreational to highly trained runners). Among the 16 studies, the systematic review analyzed 20 training programs and found that 17 out of 20 showed improved running economy. Differences in training duration, types of strength training, age, training level, and number of sessions per week were accounted for.

It was determined that a program of 6-8 weeks of either heavy weight training or plyometric training showed small improvements and 12-14 weeks showed large improvements. For highly trained runners to have significant improvement, programs of 14-20 weeks were required.

It can be said with confidence that both heavy strength training and plyometric training programs completed with consistency over a longer duration result in improved running economy.

Denadai BS Aguiar RA Lima LCR Greco CC Caputo F. “Explosive training and heavy weight training are effective for improving running economy in endurance athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis”. Journal of Sports Medicine. 2016; August: Epub [ahead of print].

Cathlin Fitzgerald, PT, DPT, CSCS, CAFS

Leah Peterson