How to Conserve Energy When Running

When running a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or marathon, what's the best way to conserve energy? Get-Fit Guy has the surprising answer.

Ben Greenfield
2-minute read

How to Conserve Energy When Running

In the January 30, 2013 issue of the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, researchers looked at how people budget their time when they travel on foot to reach a destination. They found that when people have an undefined amount of time to reach their destination, they naturally switch back and forth between walking and running – because this turns out to be the best strategy for saving energy!

This is also a strategy that can be used when you’re running a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or marathon.

In the episode How to Start Running, I recommend that when you first start running, you should use walk-run intervals to allow you to gradually ease your body into the new form of movement. Depending on your fitness level, you can start with a total distance of one to three miles, and use a 3:1 walk:run ratio. For example, for a two mile workout, you should walk three minutes, then jog one minute, and then walk three minutes again. Continue this scenario until you’ve traveled two miles. You can perform this workout three to four times per week, and gradually reduce walking time while increasing running time.

During a race, you can do the same thing! One of my favorite “ratios” to conserve energy during a race is to use a 4:1 or a 9:1 run:walk ratio. Less fit individuals can run for 4 minutes, then briskly walk for 1 minute, and more fit individuals can run for 9 minutes before taking a walk break. Some marathoners can run a marathon in under 3 hours using this approach!

If you have more questions about how to conserve energy during a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or marathon, post them on the Facebook.com/GetFitGuy page!

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.