5 Running Rules You Should Break

While there are a number of ‘rules’ in running that you should probably try and adhere to, there are many others that you should perhaps ignore in order to make good progress and avoid injury.

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Rule: Stretching pre-run

Some of us may consider that a good stretch prior to running is beneficial, after all you often see elite athletes doing it prior to a race, but is it really doing you any good? Some researchers have gone against the previously considered wisdom and suggested that static stretching does little to aid injury prevention and can negatively affect running performance.

One of the studies, carried out by researchers at the University of Zagreb found that from a sample of over 100 people who performed static stretches, their muscle strength declined by up to 5.5 per cent when exercising after stretching.

The advice instead is to perform a dynamic warm-up before your running. A dynamic warm-up to mobilise the muscles that will be used during running, such as the quads, glutes and hamstrings will aid performance and injury prevention. Exercises that could be incorporated into your warm-up include skipping, glute bridges, hip rotations and leg swings.

Rule: Following your training plan to the letter

For the majority of time adhering to your prescribed training plan certainly makes sense. Following it will help you progress in a safe manner, keep you focused and ensure that you train consistently, even when you might not always feel quite as motivated.

However, it is possible that there will be times during your training when you should listen to what your body is telling you rather than just religiously following the training plan. On days when you are feeling a bit off, should you put off your run or just scale it back slightly? Could you swap your long run to a few days later when you might be feeling better?

When your body is telling you to back off, then perhaps you should listen to it. Alternatively, there may be days when you are feeling great and doing that little bit extra might just be a viable option. That said, only break this running rule occasionally because diverging too far from the training plan could lead to undertraining or even overtraining, or even injury.

Rule: Never increase your running by more than 10 per cent per week

The running rule that states you should never increase your distance by more than 10 per cent per week has been around for some time. However, researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have concluded that the 10 per cent rule perhaps should be something that is ignored in future.

The research conclusions suggested that sticking to the 10 per cent rule might not have any bearing on your chances of getting injured. The researchers focused on over 500 beginner runners preparing for a 4-mile race. Half of the participants were given an 11-week training plan that increased their running time by 10 per cent each week. The other half of participants were given an 8-week training plan which increased their training time by more than 10 per cent per week.

The results of the research found that both groups had an almost identical injury rate, with around 20 per cent in each group suffering a running injury. The conclusion of the researchers was that that increasing your running by more than 10 per cent does not lead to an increase in the chances of sustaining an injury.

Rule: Running earlier in the day is better for you

A longstanding belief among many runners is that morning running is more beneficial than running in the evening. However, those of you who love to pound the pavements by moonlight might be pleased to hear that this isn’t necessarily the case.  

While there has been research previously which identified a link between those who ran in the morning and greater weight loss as well as better sleep, a study by researchers in Finland found that those who exercised after 8pm fell asleep quicker and then got up in the morning feeling more refreshed than the early exercisers. Their conclusion was that late evening exercise causes body temperature to rise but it then falls just the point you are going to bed, and it is this temperature change that helps aid sleep.

If your preference is for an evening run shortly before you go to bed, then go for it, as it might just help you drift off better than you otherwise might have done.

Rule: You have to go hard at it in all training to get results

Thinking that you have to hammer it and go real hard in training in order to get results is another running rule that you might not need to abide by. A study shared in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning suggested that doing lots of tempo runs at an intensity above your lactate threshold - the point where the body starts to generate lactic acid - negatively affects running performance.

The study looked at two groups of runners, with one group training at a moderate intensity 25 per cent of the time, whilst the other group trained at a moderate intensity for just 12 per cent of the time. The group that engaged in the less intense workouts improved their race time (over a 6.5-mile course) better than those engaged in more of the harder running sessions. The conclusion of the researchers was that those who did more of the more intense sessions had not recovered sufficiently and as such their performances were negatively impacted.

The lesson here then is that instead of making all your sessions as difficult as you can, you should mix up the levels of intensity of your training to allow for sufficient recovery, and this should actually allow you to perform better in your race.

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