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Running economy to improve performance
Whether you are a competitor or just a recreational exerciser, improving your running economy will likely be beneficial at some point in your training. Running economy can be defined by how much distance you are able to cover in any given period of time. Improving this measure will help not only endurance athletes, but sprinters as well. Furthermore, since many sports require you to get from one position to another on the field or playing court relatively quickly, this is again a beneficial skill to have.
Running economy can be improved by either increasing your stride length taken or by increase the rate of strides you take in any given distance. Both of these will then translate from you getting from point A to point B quicker.
To improve your stride length, two great exercises you will want to focus on are high bench step-ups and one-legged squats.
To perform the step-ups, you will begin in a standing position with the weight distributed over both legs on top of a bench. Then, bending one knee, slowly lower the body to the ground keeping the free leg straight and slightly behind the body. As soon as you feel the toes of the free leg hit the floor, contract the leg muscles of the bent leg and rise back up to the top of the bench once again. Once you've done as many reps as you are going for on one leg, switch legs and repeat the exercise.
For one-legged squats, you want to stand with one leg resting upon a bench directly behind you and your body weight centred over the leg directly beneath you (the knee should be straight). Next, slowly begin to bend the knee you are standing on so that your free leg knee approaches the ground. Once you are down as far as you can go, straighten the standing knee once again to resume an upright position. Note that the further 'split' your legs are, the more this exercise will target the glute muscles.
Next, if your goal is to improve your stride rate, then you first should calculate what your current rate is. To do this, time yourself going for ninety seconds or more and as you're going, count how many strides you take (each time the right foot lands it counts as one). A good rate to be at is ninety or more strides per minute. If you find that you are less than that, then you simply need to focus on being lighter on your feet and moving the legs faster as you go. Keep the hip flexors relaxed as well as if there is a lot of built-up tension in these muscles, it can slow the stride rate you use.