• Thomas Alexander

Free Speed, the Next, Next 2.8%

Long time between posts, injury, sickness and crazy busy work but finally got the balance back! I don't have too many tricks up my running sleeves, mostly because I'm usually in singlets, but I've decided to share what I think is a brilliant free tip.


You often hear elite team or individual coaches and athletes talk about focusing on the one percenters in terms of looking for any small gains in performance. With unlimited resources and access to laboratory and controlled testing and specialists in bio-mechanics and so on, this can be quite expensive and precise. It is also not too practical or cost effective for the weekend warrior looking to run a PB or just improve overall efficiency, plus that stuff is serious business and not much fun.


The most common default in any racing tends to be looking to ‘buy speed’. In triathlon or cycling, it’s superbikes, disc wheels, aero helmets and skin suits, many of which make considerable differences but can easily creep into ten thousand dollars plus. In running, we’re naturally more limited in terms of technology with shoes, and more specifically ‘super shoes’. being the current trend following Nike’s initial releases and claims with most brands now selling carbon plated versions. As the trendsetter, published testing, both internal and independent verified (for the sample groups) the Vaporfly 4%’s claim of being that much more efficient, which is huge!


If you consider a 3:30 marathoner, this is the equivalent of potentially shaving almost 10 minutes off the overall time, 10 minutes! Which for $300+ starts to make them look like not that bad value at all. Certainly, there are very few arguments against using whatever you can to run faster, other than a few traditionalists who lament the ‘simpler days’, but progress is progress in any sport. So, what about if there was a way to run more efficiently, without any extra or specific training, and it was free? So what is the Next Next 2.8%? Can't figure out how to do the copy-write symbol.. but remember where you heard that first and feel free to send me your credit card details for my efforts in sharing this information.


Recently, on a long weekend run, I noticed that only about twenty five percent of other runners gave a wave, head nod or deliberate smile in response to mine, and this was in atrocious weather conditions, the type of weather that automatically forms a bond with other crazy people running in lightning! I’ll cover the unwritten rules and courtesies (or lack thereof) another time but it occurred to me that smiling actually made me feel different when I was running. I mean, if you don't feel like the below, you're doing something wrong:

This is how running makes me feel!

It turns out, there’s actual science to this and studies have shown that both relaxing the facial muscles, and then smiling, either genuinely or as a deliberate effort actually increases running efficiency whilst frowning has the opposite effect. You’ve probably seen people grimacing in races before, which is pretty unavoidable at times but being able to smile while running or at a minimum relaxing the face, in the sample group, reduced the oxygen cost during vigorous running by 2.8% meaning they were more efficient, for free!


If we took the same 3:30 runner who’s now on target for a 3:20 with their super shoes, there’s a potential to save another 5 minutes off that time, hello 3:15! Plus, not only are they faster, they now don't look like they're hating life as much! I would encourage everyone to not take my word for it and give it a go, in training, or races, or both and for me, smiling whilst running does make me feel better Whether there’s a performance gain for me I couldn’t say but if we feel better, that’s a positive in itself so it's one of those things I'm happy to believe. It may be a placebo effect but I definitely feel faster when I’m happy and smiling so even if it has nil performance effect, you’ll also find out how contagious smiling is when you’re amongst other runners.


It almost sounds too easy, but for anyone interested, you can access the study here and of course, there are limitations and other studies with more comprehensive sample sizes, but it’s definitely food for thought and something which really doesn’t have any negative impacts no matter how you look at it! 😊


Try it and let me know, do you feel different? You're welcome!

Perth City, in all its glory!

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