You may view running as something you do naturally and wonder why you need to tweak how you run, but there are improvements to be made if you want to improve your running performance. One of the areas to focus on is your running cadence - the measure of how many running steps per minute you make. Runners have a tendency to lengthen their stride towards one that may be too long, and this reduces their cadence. Legendary running coach Jack Daniels, in the book Born to Run, suggests that many runners need to shorten their stride in order to run at the optimum cadence of around 180 steps per minute.
Over-focusing on your running form
Technical adjustments on issues such as stride length and cadence can improve your running, but overthinking it could actually have a negative impact. Research by Stephen McGregor, PhD, identified that runners who were asked to make multiple form adjustments to their running actually ran slow. Even though these changes should have had a positive impact, the research found that the increased brain activity required to make the adjustments interfered with the runners’ unconscious efficiency. The take away here is to consider your running form but not to take it too far so that you are focusing on every single stride.
Your training partner
Training with someone whose pace is not matched to you can have a detrimental impact on on your running technique over time, regardless of whether they are slower or faster than you. While it may make be tempting to take that new runner out with you, or to try and push yourself with a pacy marathoner, don’t run with them consistently unless they are willing to adapt their running pace to suit you. The best place to find people to run with at the same ability level as yourself is your local running club.
Running too frequently
Getting out for daily runs may make you feel as though you are getting good consistent training in, but it could actually be detrimental to your running and long-term health. Researchers at the University of Montana identified overtraining as the main cause of running injuries. Training every day does not give the body sufficient time to recover and adapt to the training load it is being placed under thus increasing the potential for injury.
Doing the same runs
Completing the same running sessions week after week will negatively impact on your progress, and likely lead to your performances stalling. Instead of having a training regime with little variety, try mixing it up with different sessions - speed, fartlek, interval, hill work etc - all aimed at employing different running training techniques and allowing you to introduce some variety to avoid running boredom setting in.
You may think that going through a routine of pre-run stretches is the right thing to do, but research suggests the exact opposite may be the case. Researchers at the University of Zagreb found that performing prolonged static stretches before exercise actually reduces muscle strength by as much as 5 per cent. Much of the advice now focuses on carrying out a series of dynamic exercises in order to mobilise the main joints and muscles required for the running activity you are about to carry out in your running session.
Running without a goal
Running for running’s sake can of course be enjoyable but the occasional impromptu run isn’t going to do much for your running progress. Without a running goal to target such as an event on the horizon or aiming to beat a personal best, your runs will lack proper drive and motivation, meaning you won’t be pushing yourself as hard as you could do. Whatever your target, just having one will make your runs more purposeful.