Rule: Stretch before you run
At some point, most of us have probably been taught that stretching before a run is good for our bodies, but is it? Against most people’s previous thoughts stretching does not help to prevent injury and nor does it improve our runs. In fact, static stretching can harm our running performance and make us less powerful and slower.
Evidence for this has come from numerous studies, one of which was conducted by the University of Zagreb. Researchers from the University reviewed over 100 studies of people who stretched statically and found that their muscle strength decreased by a massive five and a half per cent when they exercised after stretching.
Instead of stretching before you run, do a dynamic warm-up before you exercise. A dynamic warm-up will help you improve performance and help you to prevent injury. Your dynamic warm-up should involve those muscles you will use whilst running, such as your quads, glutes and hamstrings and, as the name suggests, it should be dynamic. Some exercises you can incorporate into your dynamic warm-up include skipping, glute bridges, hip rotations and leg swings.
Rule: Stick to your training plan
For 90 per cent of the time sticking to your training plan will be a good idea. It will help you progress safely, stay focused and train regularly, even on those days when you’d much rather be curled up in bed.
However, for some people there are a few days during the year when you should ignore your plan and listen to your body. Ask yourself how you feel. Do you think you could do a little more than the plan suggests today? Or do you feel like you couldn’t possibly cover even half of the distance your plan has scheduled in?
When you don’t feel like your training plan matches how your body feels you should adapt it to suit you. However, only break this running rule some of the time because not sticking to your training plan may put you at risk of overtraining or undertraining.
Rule: Never increase your mileage by more than 10 per cent per week
For us runners, the 10 per cent rule has been drilled into us and we’re as familiar with it as we are our ABCs. However, research conducted in the Netherlands has revealed that perhaps the 10 per cent rule is not something we need to stick to any longer.
For example, research conducted at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that the 10 per cent rule might not actually prevent injury.
The researchers examined 502 beginner runners who were training for a local four-mile race. The participants were divided into two and half of them received a training plan that lasted for 11 weeks and that increased the amount of time they ran for by 10 per cent each week. The second set of participants had an eight-week training plan that increased the amount of time they ran for by more than 10 per cent.
Interestingly, despite half of the participants going against the 10 per cent rule, both groups had the same rate of injury, with one in five runners suffering from some sort of running related injury. The study seems to suggest that increasing your mileage by more than 10 per cent does not increase your chances of picking up a running injury.
Rule: Running in the morning is better than running late at night
Most of us believe that running in the morning is better for us than running late at night. Yet we have some good news for the night owls because this rule might not be as applicable as we used to think.
Although there are studies that suggest that people can lose more weight and sleep better when they exercise in the morning, a Finnish study has found that people who exercised after eight o’clock fell asleep quicker and woke up feeling more refreshed than when they worked out earlier in the day. The reason for this seems to be that during exercise your body temperature rises, yet by the time you get to bed your temperature begins to lower and this change in temperature helps to send you off to sleep.
Therefore if you prefer to run at night, don’t feel like you can’t. Just make sure you dress appropriately and stay safe if it’s dark.
Rule: You have to run hard to get results
What’s your running mantra? If it’s no pain, no gain you may want to have a rethink. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that doing lots of tempo runs at an intensity that goes above your lactate threshold (a stage where your body begins to produce lactic acid) has a negative impact on your running performance.
The study divided its participants into two groups. One group trained at a moderate intensity 25 per cent of the time, whilst the other group only trained at a moderate intensity 12 per cent of the time. Surprisingly the group that did less intense workouts improved their six and half mile race time more than those who did more moderate intensity runs. It is thought that this is because their bodies were able to recover from their more intense workouts, whereas the other group did not have enough time to fully recover and therefore their performance suffered.
So, rather than working hard all of the time if you want to run faster, you should make sure you mix up the level of intensity you train at, doing some low-intensity runs, some moderate intensity runs and a few high-intensity runs.
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