Running economy is the human equivalent of miles per gallon. Traditionally, biological factors we can’t control have been thought to account for how it varies from person to person. However, increasing your human MPG would mean you could go faster and farther on a full tank.
A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research proved that small changes in your stride technique can actually boost your running economy by as much as 24%.
The study analyzed a group of 25 trained male runners. Every runner completed 4 minute running sets on a treadmill at different set velocities. With the help of video measurement tools, researchers analyzed every part of the runners’ movements and found that the answer is in your stride angle.
Stride angle is defined as “the angle of the parable tangent derived from the theoretical arc traced by a foot during a stride and the ground.”
What this means in plain english: it’s the relationship between how far your stride measures and how far off the ground your feet get when you push off the ground with each step.
Traditionally, running coaches have used technique exercises emphasizing longer stride lengths, lower stride angles, and shorter ground contact time. But this studied proved that actually the inverse is true: the strongest correlation between performance and stride is actually between a high stride angle and a shorter stride length. (83% correlation)
How can this be?
When your stride is short and quick your foot rises faster than the rest of your body does. Your feet spend more time pushing off the ground than moving through the air, letting you move farther.
Change your stride to be short and quick, body low and your contact foot off the ground for as short a time as possible. My short legged runners, there is hope yet for us!
Try the workout:
On either a treadmill or on a track, run for 60 seconds at whatever pace you could sustain for 10km. During that 60 seconds, count how many times your right foot touches the ground.
Multiply by 2 and that is your steps per minute.
Doing your best to maintain that steps per minute, now time yourself running 10km. Over the next 9 weeks, you’ll gradually work to speed this up by adjusting your stride.
3x a week
5 sets of 5 minutes of running. for each set, add 5% to your steps per minute. (if original spm is 160, your new target is to speed up stride to 170) count your right foot for the first 60 seconds like you did initially.
5 sets of 10 minutes of running. for each set, add 5% more to your steps per minute. (if spm for 0-3 is 170, your new target is to speed up stride to 185-190 over the same distance) count your right foot for the first 60 seconds like you did initially.
5 sets of 15 minutes of running. for each set, add 5% more to your steps per minute. (if spm for 4-6 is 185, your new target is to speed up stride to 200 spm) count your right foot for the first 60 seconds like you did initially.
Re-test your 10km time.