Relative Running Economy

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1 Introduction

There are two components to running ability; fitness and economy. Fitness is the ability of our bodies to generate energy for running and is the focus of a lot of our training. Economy is how far and fast you can run with a given amount of energy. Good economy is a critical part of running, and [Cadence] is one element I focus on.

2 Measuring Efficiency

In an ideal world, we’d be able to easily measure our running economy and see if things are improving. If we could measure our breath, find out how much O2 we consumed and how much CO2 we produce, we’d know how much energy we burned (and from fat or carbohydrate). Sadly, this is not practical, so the best measure we have of energy consumption is our heart rate. This is far from perfect, as heart rate can vary for other reasons besides supplying O2 for energy production. However, I believe it is a useful approximation.

3 The Calculator

Assuming you know the distance you ran, your average heart rate and the time it took, you can calculate your efficiency. If you know your resting heart rate, enter that as well to optimize the calculation.


Hours Minutes Seconds
Average Heart Rate
Resting Heart Rate
Distance (miles)

4 The Efficiency Calculation

The formula that is used is

Total Beats = (Average Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate) * Time in Minutes

Work Per Mile = Total Beats / Distance in Miles

Efficiency = 1 / Work Per Mile * 100,000