How to increase performance by becoming more economical
In our latest blog post, we saw that the relationship between biomechanics and running economy (RE)* is specific to each and every one and that it does not abide by a universal set of rules.
Unlike with recreational runners, when treating high-level athletes who wish to increase their performance, I am extremely cautious to integrate specific biomechanical changes. There is a high risk of negatively affecting their RE; not to mention that the literature supporting such changes is flimsy. On the other hand, certain training components are known to significantly improve RE, a key factor in performance* (and for all runners, irrespective of their performance level). Running more, more often, and more at race pace, running with minimalist shoes (weight and interference) as well as increasing dynamism/leg stiffness (which can be improved by integrating barefoot running, plyometrics, etc.) are the main elements that can be integrated.
My approach with experienced athletes consists in integrating these factors rather than correcting subtle biomechanical components. I provide them with a clear chart detailing certain aspects related to RE. We highlight what they are currently doing and determine the goals they can set to achieve their objectives. Coaching in this case is more centered on the process rather than on the final result as the only risk that must be factored in (but in an effective way) is the risk of injury resulting from the changes proposed. This can explain why the entire process can take up to two years in some cases! Are you looking to improve performance by increasing your RE? Come and fill out your own chart!
*Running economy (RE) consists of the difference between Lance Armstrong who ran his first marathon in seconds under 3:00:00 and others who average 2:05:00… with the same VO2max! :)