Strategies to Improve Running Economy
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- Barnes, K.R. & Kilding, A.E. Sports Med (2015) 45: 37. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0246-y
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Running economy (RE) represents a complex interplay of physiological and biomechanical factors that is typically defined as the energy demand for a given velocity of submaximal running and expressed as the submaximal oxygen uptake (VO2) at a given running velocity. This review considered a wide range of acute and chronic interventions that have been investigated with respect to improving economy by augmenting one or more components of the metabolic, cardiorespiratory, biomechanical or neuromuscular systems. Improvements in RE have traditionally been achieved through endurance training. Endurance training in runners leads to a wide range of physiological responses, and it is very likely that these characteristics of running training will influence RE. Training history and training volume have been suggested to be important factors in improving RE, while uphill and level-ground high-intensity interval training represent frequently prescribed forms of training that may elicit further enhancements in economy. More recently, research has demonstrated short-term resistance and plyometric training has resulted in enhanced RE. This improvement in RE has been hypothesized to be a result of enhanced neuromuscular characteristics. Altitude acclimatization results in both central and peripheral adaptations that improve oxygen delivery and utilization, mechanisms that potentially could improve RE. Other strategies, such as stretching should not be discounted as a training modality in order to prevent injuries; however, it appears that there is an optimal degree of flexibility and stiffness required to maximize RE. Several nutritional interventions have also received attention for their effects on reducing oxygen demand during exercise, most notably dietary nitrates and caffeine. It is clear that a range of training and passive interventions may improve RE, and researchers should concentrate their investigative efforts on more fully understanding the types and mechanisms that affect RE and the practicality and extent to which RE can be improved outside the laboratory.