SCIENCE TALK: The consist of distance running performance

Roughly speaking running performance can be divided into three sections; psychological factors, biomechanics and physiological factors. Each of these section contains several sub-concepts, let’s see some of these factors.

Psychological factors

Running is physically demanding, so it needs psychological effort. Goal setting, training focus, mental practise, psychological stress and so on, all affect the performance. I don’t open up this subject more on this post. Can be improved by training.


Running technique consist of the whole body posture, effective use of muscles, stretch-shortening cycle, foot strike, step length and strike length, ground reaction force, etc. Can be improved by training. Studies have shown that less flexibility improves running performance, as muscles don’t need to use that much energy to control muscles, but the good running form still needs a good range of motion.


The energy system; aerobic and anaerobic production ratio is individual, it’s affected by performance length and power, muscle cell breakdown, and training background. Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), lactate threshold, the velocity of VO2max (vVO2max). Some runner might achieve higher VO2max with the poor economy, in these cases, they often lose the runners, who same or even slightly poorer VO2max but the greater economy. Stroke volume, amount of the mitochondria and muscles’ capillaries affect oxygen transportation and metabolism. All of these and several other factors can be improved by training, but genes, environment, such as altitude and temperature, training adaption affect how much these factors can be improved.

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Picture 1: Saunders, P., Pyne, D., Telford, R., Hawley, J. (2004) Factors affecting Running Economy in Trained Distance Runners. Sport Med 34(7), 2004


The picture above shows factors that play the role of running economy. As you can see there are factors all areas (biomechanics and physiology).

Training should include a variety of factors to improve running economy and so on running performance. Picture 1 only consist of physical factors, but don’t forget the importance of psychological and nutrition aspect. It doesn’t matter how hard someone training and doing everything right if they eat junk food or downplay mental training. Nutrition and nutrients affect metabolic factors, body weight and composition, energy expenditure and exchange, fatigue, recovery and many other things.

We don’t particularly need to think about ground reaction force, muscle cell breakdown or other such a thing while training, but it’s good to be aware of how many factors plays to the role of performance, and keep in mind that good performance it’s not only one-hour training session a day. Reaching to top-level performance is the 24h focus, every day. It’s carefully thought set of different factors.

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