Is my efficiency improving?

I have now done three runs since settling on the style described in my blog on Mechanics of Efficient Running posted yesterday, and I have been practising the swing drill daily since I developed it 4 days ago (amidst the ennui of Boxing Day). For each of the three runs since Christmas, I have had a very strong subjective feeling that I am running in a more relaxed manner than previously. Furthermore, I have been free of significant musculoskeletal aches and pains.

Today’s run was a 15 Km run at 4/10 effort over a path that is fairly flat apart from 5 short, sharp hills. For many months I have been using this run to gauge my fitness. So, although it is far too early to draw any firm conclusions about improvement in efficiency, I thought it would be interesting to compare today’s run with my two most recent runs over the same course under comparable conditions. Those two were on 25th November and 2nd December.

After a relatively substantial amount of training in the summer, when I ran an average of 50Km per week over a period of three months, I have decreased my running since mid-September to around 25Km per week. Therefore, I suspect that I have not increased my cardio-respiratory fitness since September. This is confirmed by my resting heart rate with reached an ‘all-time’ low of 44 beats/min in the summer, rose to 48 by the end of November and is now 51. Therefore, my subjective experience that I am running faster for a given degree of effort since adopting my new style is unlikely to be due to increased cardio-respiratory fitness.

With this in mind, I was interested to look at the performance data for today’s run compared with the comparable runs at end of November and early December. On 25th November my time for 15Km was 82 minutes and mean heart rate was 131. On 2nd December, the time was again 82 minutes and mean heart rate was 129. Today, my time was 79 minutes and mean heart rate was 130. The very similar mean heart rate recordings confirm that I had adjusted the effort to approximately the same level on all three occasions. However my time today was almost 4% faster than on the other two occasions, and was in fact the fastest I have ever recorded over this course. So my subjective experience that I am running faster at the same effort was confirmed by the data from heart rate monitor and stop watch, though a 4% improvement on a single run is unlikely to be statistically significant. This evidence is at best anecdotal.

The other important issue is musculo-skeletal stress. For the past year I have recorded musculo-skeletal aches and pains in the morning and evening every day. I rate the aches and pains on a numerical scale which I devised myself. This scale places emphasis on pre-existing problems with my right knee and also with metatarsalgia (pain in the right forefoot). My average evening score throughout the year on this numerical scale is 2.5. The score is usually a little higher after a long training run. My peak evening score so far, recorded on three separate occasions during the summer, is 6. On both 25th November and 2nd December, after the 15 Km run, the evening score was 4. Today it is 2, with contributions from very mild metatarsalgia and mild generalised muscular ache. My knee is fine, and I have no focal muscular pain. So the evidence suggests that my new running style does not exacerbate my musculoskeletal problems. So far, so good!

It would be foolish to draw too many conclusions from a single training run, but these observations do at least suggest that my new style has not caused any deterioration in my running efficiency. The important question is what will I be able to report after several months.

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3 Responses to “Is my efficiency improving?”

  1. goolloog Says:

    I here the newcomer. Not absolutely I will understand with topic. Explain, please. http://kopitop.ru/map.html

  2. canute1 Says:

    Gooloog,
    Thanks for your interest in my blog. The post that you asked me to explain was a report on the initial evidence that the efficiency of my running has improved after changing my running action, as described in recent entries on my blog. The main changes I have made are the use of short strides and high cadence (many steps per minutes – typically 180 steps per minutes). I have also adjusted the way in which my foot makes contact with the ground so as to minimise the waste of energy I made these changes for two reasons:
    1) to reduce the amount of energy absorbed by my bones and joints at each footfall so as to reduce the risk of injury to my joints, especially my knees.
    2) to save energy so that I can run at a faster speed without using more energy.
    It is difficult to measure the amount of energy consumed while actually running. However, heart rate provides an indirect indication of how much energy is being consumed when running because when the muscle uses more energy, increased oxygen is required and the heart must beat faster to pump more blood to the muscles

    In this entry on my blog I have reported that since changing to my new style of running I had run faster in a training run of 15Km, at the same heart rate as before I had changed my running style. This suggests that I was able to run faster without using more energy. In other words, the evidence from heart rate suggests that I ran more efficiently after changing my style.

    However, heart rate is not a very reliable way to assess the use of energy when running because other factors, such as levels of stress, can cause a change in heart rate. Heart rate is only a good way of assessing the use of energy if all others stresses are the same during different training sessions. Therefore, I cannot be sure that my efficiency has improved yet. It is necessary to do many training sessions to see if there is consistent evidence for an increase in speed at the same heart rate.

  3. Jane Goody Says:

    I can tell that this is not the first time you write about the topic. Why have you decided to write about it again?

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