The faster you are, the harder it is to get faster. For the average recreational runner, that’s great news because they stand to gain much more from small tweaks. New running and training technology benefits new runners much more than the elites, according to new research.
A study from the University of Colorado at Boulder found slower runners actually see much bigger gains than top elites when making small modifications to improve performance. That might mean making minor changes to your diet, getting another hour of sleep, investing in new gear or improving recovery with yoga or foam-rolling. Even race-day strategies can give mid-pack runners bigger boosts than their pro counterparts. “We found that at faster speeds, you get significantly less benefit from improving your running economy than you do at slower speeds,” says lead author Shalaya Kipp. “A lot of times recreational runners assume these things are just going to benefit elite athletes when the reality is they can benefit even more than the elites.”
The study found runners who ran a 9-minute mile or slower saw a higher percentage improvement in pace when running economy improved. A 1% improvement in running economy for a 4:30:00 marathoner would make him or her 1.17% faster, dropping a whopping 3 minutes and 7 seconds off their finish time, researchers explain. But if you run faster than a 9-minute mile pace, that same 1% improvement would only translate to a 47-second decrease in finish time. (Cue the sad trombones for the fast folks.)
SO, HOW CAN YOU MAKE GAINS IN YOUR RUNNING ECONOMY?
IMPROVE YOUR GAIT
Under Armour’s HOVR shoes not only can track your run, they pair to your phone and can offer gait coaching when used in conjunction with the MapMyRun app. Your running economy — the number of calories burned per second at an aerobic pace — can improve significantly with minor adjustments to your gait, so it’s worth working on.
CLEAN UP YOUR DIET
Using an app like MyFitnessPal to track your daily food intake can show whether or not you’re fueling your runs enough, whether you’re getting enough muscle-building and recovering protein and if you’re overdoing it on the junk food. You don’t have to track it forever, but the info you can gather even by recording for a week can help you get clearer on how to eat more efficiently.
Again, here’s where an app like MyFitnessPal can shine: Recording your daily water intake can show you if you’re drinking enough. (Spoiler alert: You’re probably not.)
Making sure to foam roll before and after a run, adding yoga to your training and getting adequate sleep are recovery methods that help keep you strong and injury free. On top of that, new technology like Under Armour’s Athlete Recovery Sleepwear works to return infrared energy to your body, which boosts localized blood flow and increases the amount of oxygen reaching your muscles to restore them faster.
To improve your speed and foot turnover, incorporate plyometric drills into your weekly running regimen. These quick, dynamic movements, like jump squats, can help improve your power and flexibility, making you a more resilient, efficient runner.