Linking current research to running
By Nikki Reiter
In endurance running, a lighter body means a reduced cost of running, making it easier to achieve better running results. Research has been performed to determine the effect of various factors affecting running performance, such as if different body size, shape, and composition.
In a recent study, it was found that along with losing fat mass, gaining fat free mass allowed for an increased ability of the body to store and release elastic energy during running, which reduced the cost of running.
Here’s how it went: 45 healthy and normal-weight participants were divided into three groups: those that followed a prescribed personalized diet only, those that ran only, and those that followed both their prescribed diet and running protocols. Participants were tested for cost of running at the entry, 6 months and 12 months later. Participants ran at least 40 km per week.
The result: Both the dieters and the diet + running participants showed a decrease in fat mass. However, it was the diet + running participants who showed a stable body mass as they concurrently decreased their fat mass and increased their fat free mass.
What this means: The authors of the study suggest that athletes with an augmented fat free mass can potentially store more elastic strain energy because their stronger muscles can impose higher tendon stresses.
A final comment: The cost of running appears to be strongly related to body composition, indicating that the role of fat free mass is imperative for running success. Running itself provides a large stimulus for developing lower body and core musculature, but strength training has also been shown to help.
Nikki Reiter is a Biomechanist and certified NCCP Performance Coach in Endurance Running. She is a Run SMART coach and offers online gait analysis through Run Right Gait Analysis. Visit her website www.run-right.ca for more information. To sign up for private coaching with Nikki go here.