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Sports Med Open. 2015 Dec;1(1):8. Epub 2015 Mar 27.

Running economy: measurement, norms, and determining factors.

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Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand.
Department of Movement Science, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, USA.
Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand.


Running economy (RE) is considered an important physiological measure for endurance athletes, especially distance runners. This review considers 1) how RE is defined and measured and 2) physiological and biomechanical factors that determine or influence RE. It is difficult to accurately ascertain what is good, average, and poor RE between athletes and studies due to variation in protocols, gas-analysis systems, and data averaging techniques. However, representative RE values for different caliber of male and female runners can be identified from existing literature with mostly clear delineations in oxygen uptake across a range of speeds in moderately and highly trained and elite runners. Despite being simple to measure and acceptably reliable, it is evident that RE is a complex, multifactorial concept that reflects the integrated composite of a variety of metabolic, cardiorespiratory, biomechanical and neuromuscular characteristics that are unique to the individual. Metabolic efficiency refers to the utilization of available energy to facilitate optimal performance, whereas cardiopulmonary efficiency refers to a reduced work output for the processes related to oxygen transport and utilization. Biomechanical and neuromuscular characteristics refer to the interaction between the neural and musculoskeletal systems and their ability to convert power output into translocation and therefore performance. Of the numerous metabolic, cardiopulmonary, biomechanical and neuromuscular characteristics contributing to RE, many of these are able to adapt through training or other interventions resulting in improved RE.

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