Improved Running Economy and Running Time

Along with VO2 max, another performance measurement that is highly regarded by athletic coaches is running economy. This is defined by the amount of energy or oxygen consumed while running at a speed that is less than maximum pace. Typically, the less energy required to run at a given pace, the better – if your body is able to use oxygen efficiently, it is indicative of a high running economy.

There is a strong association between running economy and distance running performance in elite runners, where running economy is regarded as a better predictor of performance that VO2 max. For this reason, sports scientists, coaches, and athletes are keen to apply techniques that can improve running economy, such as strength training and high-altitude training. However, a third and far more widely accessible method of boosting running economy is to practice breath hold techniques, which have been proven to improve respiratory muscle strength and endurance.

Improved Running Economy

Eighteen swimmers, comprising of ten men and eight women, who were assigned to two groups. The first group was required to take only two breaths per length and the second group seven breaths.

Researchers found that running economy improved by 6% in the group that performed reduced breathing during swimming.

See: Lavin, K. M.; Guenette, J. A.; Smoliga, J. M.; Zavorsky, G. S. Controlled-frequency breath swimming improves swimming performance and running economy. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 2013 Oct 24

Improved Running Time

15 middle distance runners (600- 3000m) Breath holding was practiced over six weeks. Runners participated in official athletics competition before and after.

  • First group- normal breathing +.03% improvement to time
  • Second group- 15 to 20 minutes of breath holding on the exhalation once per week: +1.27% improvement to time
  • Third group- 15 to 20 minutes of breath holding on the exhalation twice per week: +1.33% improvement to time

The results showed that all the runners who trained with breath holding on the exhalation twice a week improved their performance over distances ranging from 1200 meters to 3000 meters. The velocity improvement was 1.33% on average.

*Fortier E, Nadeau. Peterborough, Canada. (Cited in the book: Hypoventilation Training by Xavier Woorons from Paris 13 University)