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Improving your running economy

DEC 6, 2023

Minute 1: Go with the flow to improve your mind and body

If we didn’t know any better, we’d say that tai chi was a flash-in-the-pan fitness trend that never fought its way out of the 20th century. It is a form of martial arts that evolved into a series of slow, peaceful movements that enliven both mind and body. And thanks to new research, tai chi could be flowing back into our lives: “Tai Chi May Help Improve Memory, Slow Progression of Parkinson's Disease.” Tai chi requires a lot of concentration and control, which can be helpful for those with arthritis and cognitive decline. It can strengthen the connection between your body and mind, making it a popular choice among folks who want to boost longevity. Endurance athletes should consider the practice because of the “5 Benefits of Tai Chi for Runners (it is Perfect for ALL ages).” Tai chi encourages practitioners to breathe deeply with intent, which can help develop the muscles and nerves responsible for controlling your airflow while you run. That leads to enhanced cardiovascular and respiratory fitness, improving blood circulation and metabolic clearance. And if you really want to take your running to the next level, you can try this: “Chi Running Guide: The 5 Key Elements + How To Practice It.” Popularized by ultramarathon runner Danny Dreyer in the late 90s, chi running uses the philosophy and methods of tai chi to make running more efficient and less risky. We should note that the specific changes to running form should be undertaken with caution, since everyone’s body will require something different for optimal performance. However, the overall message of staying relaxed while you run is something that almost everyone can benefit from.

Minute 2: Are we thinking about running economy the right way?

If you think “running economy” means buying cheap sneakers or trading Nike stock, you're missing the most important meaning of this phrase. Running economy actually refers to how much energy you burn to maintain a certain speed. Many of you may be able to run a 6-minute mile (or at least a 6-minute kilometer), but the amount of energy used to hit those marks will vary greatly by individual. The good news is that running economy is something that can be measured and improved, according to this new piece: "Rethinking Running Economy for Trail and Ultrarunners." It turns out that our bodies are pretty good at finding the best way to run without wasting energy. As we mentioned with chi running above, actively trying to change your running style mid-run could backfire and slow you down (unless you have a professional coach to guide you). The best way to improve your running economy is to improve your basic conditioning, according to Wouter Hoogkamer, a professor of kinesiology at UMass Amherst. That’s particularly true for ultras and marathons. For shorter distances, however, your technique is more important and incremental improvements – beyond just logging miles – can boost your running economy. For ideas on these icing-on-the-cake workouts, check out these: "8 Powerful Running Drills To Improve Your Speed And Running Form." They include exercises like high knees, butt kicks, and A-skips that can develop your range of motion, muscles, and connective tissue. Do that, and you’ll be running faster for longer with less effort.

Minute 3: These tests can predict your brain health and lifespan

If you’ve seen the effects of dementia up close, you’ll know just how scary and devastating the condition can be. We all wish for a cure, but until then, we’ll take whatever steps we can to protect our brains from decline. Luckily, Mass General Hospital released a checklist that can help you organize your approach to improving brain health, and you can read about it in “New MGH study hints at how to lower risk of dementia, stroke.” Scientists agree that up to 40 percent of dementia cases could be prevented by improving our physical, mental, and social wellbeing. The MGH Brain Care Score chart lists the factors that matter, such as blood sugar, blood pressure, diet, sleep, social connections, alcohol, and nicotine use. By working on these areas, you can not only lower your dementia risk, but also increase your lifespan. Want to know how long you could live? Try the "Life Expectancy Calculator" from John Hancock insurance and see for yourself. We hope all of you score well, but if your result gave you a bit of a shock, harness that energy and put it toward adopting these: “Habits to Form Now for a Longer Life.”

Minute 4: Running with friends just got easier

We hope you don’t roll your eyes at this next one, but we’re excited to inform you that “Oxford’s 2023 Word of the Year Is … ‘Rizz’.” That’s Gen-Z slang for charisma, as in, “I slid into their DMs to drop some rizz.” Translation: “I sent a direct message to charm them.” You might be asking, what does that have to do with running? Trust us, it’s all relevant, because “Strava introduced a messaging feature” that has some users wondering if it’s the new best app to find friends and partners. Instead of public comments, private direct messages are now built into Strava, and that’s good news for people looking to organize more group runs. Some studies have shown we run faster and happier together, which is why it may be wise to try these “7 ways to get your partner into running this holiday season.” No Partner? No worries, since the new feature begs the question: “Is Strava the New Dating App?” Users say that the opportunity to connect over a shared passion like running is a more organic way to make an introduction than the fast-paced, overwhelming environment of apps like Tinder. There are some Strava users who are vehemently against the idea of running rizz, though, and you can read the counterpoint in “No, Strava is Not the New Dating App.”

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

Have you ever adopted a habit that was supposed to save you time and energy, only to find it ends up stressing you out even more? For some folks, that’s how meal prepping goes, and all the planning required can be a real drag. It doesn’t have to be that way, though, and if you want to make better, easier plans, you can follow the advice in “How to Start Meal Prepping Without It Taking Over Your Life.” If you want a (delicious) cheat code to plan your meals in advance, you may want to check out what our new partner, Factor, can ship directly to your doorstep. Info on their services is here.

Just like runners, cyclists can benefit from strength and plyometrics exercise to improve their efficiency. In fact, a lot of strength training moves recommended to runners also work for cyclists, so regardless of which sport you consider your main focus, you can make use of this advice from Training Peaks: “Weight Lifting for Cyclists 101: Key Movements.”

For anyone who works sitting down for long periods of time, standing desks can be a life saver. With one caveat, however, because some folks find that long periods of standing help their posture, but hurt their feet and legs. If you’ve given standing desks a try but need a bit more support, you should check out this review: “Fulton Insoles Makes Our Favorite Standing Mat.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

Some people love running, some people hate it. The uninitiated may ask us things like: "How do you deal with the agony?" or "Don't you get bored out of your mind?” Well, we have a newsletter full of science-backed facts on how running makes us happier. Sure, we might sound like a crazy cult leader when we talk about it, like this hilarious video from @runirving shows. But we don't care. We're proud runners and we’re warning everyone now: don't question our passion unless you're ready for a long and enthusiastic answer!


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