4 Ways to Fire Up Your Running Economy
Written by Tricia Moore

Any runner looking to boost their performance should get to know the term “running economy.” Working to improve your running economy translates into greater distances covered or faster paces run with less effort.

What is running economy?

Simply put, running economy is the energy cost of locomotion. Think of it like the fuel economy of a car: How much fuel does it take to travel a given distance? A car with good MPG is efficient, the same is true with running. Efficiency wins the race.

Why is running economy important?

Running economy is especially important if you’re training to run longer distances, like marathons but any runner can benefit from having greater efficiency. As you become a more efficient runner, your body needs less energy (i.e., calories) to run at the same pace, and the better economy you have, the faster or farther you’ll be able to go with less effort. As well, If you are a more economical runner, you’ll likely be able to train more without overloading your body. And, that extra training can certainly help improve your running. 

How to Improve Your Running Economy

Increase Your Running Cadence

Working to increase your running cadence – the number of steps you take in a minute – is a relatively simple way to cut back on the energy needed to complete your run. Our goal with running efficiency is to have us moving forward as much as possible, and you’re actually more efficient if you take more steps. The more steps you’re taking, the less vertical and side to side you will be.  

How to Calculate Your Running Cadence

Most recreational runners have a running cadence between 150–165 steps per minute. To figure out your cadence, simply set a timer for 10 seconds and count the number of times your right foot hits the ground. Once you have your number, double it and multiply it by 6 to get your total for 60 seconds. 

Assuming an initial cadence of 150-160 aim to add 8-10 steps to your running cadence per week, with the ultimate goal of reaching 180. Keep in mind you might go higher or lower depending on your height and training background.  

Assess Your Arms While Running

The next time you go out for a run, observe what your arms are doing. Feel them. Are they moving forward and back, or are they crossing in front of your body? If they’re crossing in front of your body, begin working on driving your elbows back with each step. Remember, the goal is to get as much of your energy moving you forward as opposed to side to side.

Strengthen Your Core Muscles with Isometrics

When done right, isometric core work can be a great way to strengthen your core muscles, which encompasses all the muscles that run from the rib cage to the pelvis. And having a strong, stable midsection is key for running efficiency. Runners with greater core control and stabilization, particularly in the lower back and pelvis are more efficient. Improved control and stabilization in the muscles that support the spine and pelvis mean runners don’t need to recruit accessory muscles to assist with the task of running, leading to less energy wasted over time.

Isometric Core Workouts

Looking for some ideas in this arena? Here are some isometric core workouts to try!

Fire Up the Right Muscles!

Your glutes – which include the large gluteus maximus, as well as the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus – are some of your most important running muscles. The more of those muscle fibers you can get firing while you’re running, the more ground you’re going to cover. Unfortunately, many runners have weak glutes from so much time spent sitting that they don’t know how to activate the glutes when running, leaving other, less-efficient muscles to pick up the slack. As a result, a ton of potential power and energy gets left on the table. If you can get your glutes fired up before you head out for your run, however, your muscles will stay active for the duration.

Glute Activation Warm-Up

Three Sets:
Glute Bridge x 30 seconds
Monster Walks x 10 steps to each side and 10 steps to the back
Leg Side-Lifts x 5–10 reps per side
Rest 30 seconds between sets

If you want to run faster and/or farther with less effort, try these strategies to improve your running economy today!

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