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The implications of time on the ground on running economy: Less is not always better

A lower duty factor (DF) reflects a greater relative contribution of leg swing to ground contact time during the running step. Increasing time on the ground has been reported in the scientific literature to both increase and decrease the energy cost (EC) of running, with DF reported to be highly variable in runners. As increasing running speed aligns running kinematics more closely with spring-mass model behaviors and re-use of elastic energy, we compared the centre of mass (COM) displacement and EC between runners with a low (DFlow) and high (DFhigh) duty factor at typical endurance running speeds. Forty well-trained runners were divided in two groups based on their mean DF measured across a range of speeds. EC was measured from 4-min treadmill runs at 10, 12, and 14 km·h−1 using indirect calorimetry. Temporal characteristics and COM displacement data of the running step were recorded from 30-s treadmill runs at 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18 km·h−1. Across speeds, DFlow exhibited more symmetrical patterns between braking and propulsion phases in terms of time and vertical COM displacement than DFhigh. DFhigh limited global vertical COM displacements in favor of horizontal progression during ground contact. Despite these running kinematics differences, no significant difference in EC was observed between groups. Therefore, both DF strategies seem energetically efficient at endurance running speeds.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Lussiana, T., Patoz, A., Gindre, C., Mourot, L., & Hébert-Losier, K. (2019). The implications of time on the ground on running economy: Less is not always better. Journal of Experimental Biology, 222(6). https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.192047
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