Factors affecting the energy cost of level running at submaximal speed

Abstract

Metabolic measurement is still the criterion for investigation of the efficiency of mechanical work and for analysis of endurance performance in running. Metabolic demand may be expressed either as the energy spent per unit distance (energy cost of running, C r) or as energy demand at a given running speed (running economy). Systematic studies showed a range of costs of about 20 % between runners. Factors affecting C r include body dimensions: body mass and leg architecture, mostly calcaneal tuberosity length, responsible for 60–80 % of the variability. Children show a higher C r than adults. Higher resting metabolism and lower leg length/stature ratio are the main putative factors responsible for the difference. Elastic energy storage and reuse also contribute to the variability of C r. The increase in C r with increasing running speed due to increase in mechanical work is blunted till 6–7 m s−1 by the increase in vertical stiffness and the decrease in ground contact time. Fatigue induced by prolonged or intense running is associated with up to 10 % increased C r; the contribution of metabolic and biomechanical factors remains unclear. Women show a C r similar to men of similar body mass, despite differences in gait pattern. The superiority of black African runners is presumably related to their leg architecture and better elastic energy storage and reuse.

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Abbreviations

C r :

Energy cost of running

COM:

Center of mass

CV:

Coefficient of variation

EMG:

Electromyographic activity

k leg :

Leg stiffness

k vert :

Effective vertical stiffness

L:

Leg length

L/S:

Leg length-stature ratio

M:

Body mass

RE:

Running economy

RER:

Respiratory exchange ratio

S:

Stature

SF:

Stride frequency

SL:

Stride length

t c :

Contact time

T re :

Rectal temperature

v amax:

Maximal aerobic running speed

\(\dot{V}{\text{E}}\) :

Pulmonary ventilation

\(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2}\) :

Oxygen consumption

\(\mathop V\limits^{.}\!\mathop {\text{O}}\nolimits_{{ 2 {\text{max}}}}\) :

Maximal oxygen consumption

\(v\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2{\rm max}}\) :

Running speed sustained at \(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2{\rm max}}\)

W EXT :

External work

W INT :

Internal work

W TOT :

Total work

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The authors thank Ian McGill for his review of the manuscript.

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Lacour, J., Bourdin, M. Factors affecting the energy cost of level running at submaximal speed. Eur J Appl Physiol 115, 651–673 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3115-y

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Keywords

  • Muscle–tendon elasticity
  • Stride frequency
  • Vertical stiffness
  • Body mass
  • Calcaneal tuberosity length