If you’re a runner, you know how obsessed the world’s become with harnessing
the best technology and engineering it in such a way to propel athletes to run faster than ever before, while safeguarding their joints and muscles from injury—and, of course, being as light as humanly possible. The newest running shoes are so widely publicized and sought after that most leisurely runners don’t think about the nuances in training and recovery an elite athlete employs to be a better runner day after day.
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Running is a wholly individualized discipline. Sprinters, mid-distance runners, and ultramarathoners are prone to different risks (e.g. overtraining,
IT Band Syndrome, heat exhaustion), need specialized training programs and modalities to achieve individual goals (get faster, run more efficiently, boost endurance), and targeted recovery methods to stay healthy. Problem is, most of the information on the internet on how best to achieve each of these markers is wildly contradictory.
So experts from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and the
Jaybird Running Sports & Human Performance Division consolidated more than 200 studies on running. The meta-analysis has distilled the unwieldily wealth of information into 10 rules for runners.
Read up on the rules here before you head out for your next run to tap into your inner Eliud Kipchoge.
1. Utilize Elevation Training
Drawing on three different meta-analyses published from 2012 to 2018, the researchers conclude elevation training leads to a net increase in running performance at lower altitudes. You force your body to perform with less available oxygen than usual, which makes the miles comparatively easier when you return to your base altitude. If you’re training for an ultramarathon, consider higher ground to boost your endurance pre-race.
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2. Keep Your Cool
Data from two recent meta-analyses—including 42 experiments—shows that cooling the body can help improve a runner’s endurance. The UCSB and Jaybird researchers found that both precooling (cooling off before running) and percooling (cooling off while running) were effective—as long as you cool down by applying something chilly to your skin. It doesn’t just keep you comfortable during a stifling outdoor workout, it can actually boost your performance. Before a workout, sip ice-cold water and sit in air conditioning. Some elite athletes have been known to wear an ice vest, but an easier (not to mention cheaper) alternative is to invest in a cooling towel, like
MISSION. Wet the towel with water mid-run, wring out the excess, then snap to activate. It cools to 30 degrees below average body temperature and stays cool for up to two hours. Drape it around your neck or head on particularly hot days.
3. Add Some Resistance
Data from several published analyses, which collectively surveyed over 1,000 primary studies, proves that resistance training is another great way to increase endurance. To get the benefits, train with a moderate to heavy amount of resistance no more than two times per week, performing exercises like prowler pushes.
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4. Increase Speed With Plyometrics
Based on information from 56 research studies on plyometric training (for runners, that means jumping), the study recommends doing at least 15 weekly sessions of 80 high-intensity jumps (without weight) for 10 weeks. The result? Faster sprint times.
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5. Be Smart About Stretching
There’s conflicting evidence on the
benefits of stretching. Researchers believe regular stretching (as in you devote time nearly every day to stretching and/or yoga) might boost force, jump height, and speed, but there’s nothing to suggest it’ll improve endurance and economy. Acute stretching (i.e. some static stretches before you run) won’t help any of those factors either, but it’s not necessarily detrimental. Instead of aimlessly doing a couple toe touches before you head outdoors, engage in a proper warmup. Make sure it includes an aerobic component, some dynamic stretches and movements that mimic what you’re about to do (hamstring sweeps, bodyweight squats, the world’s greatest stretch, hip swings, etc.), as well as some glute activation. Doing hip circles and fire hydrant drills with a mini band just above your knees will fire up the muscles you want to engage when you run.
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6. Train Hard for Endurance, Fast for Speed
Data from two meta-analyses shows that short sprints can help you bump up your speed. Sprinting in bursts of 20 meters or 10 seconds with a 90-second recovery for at least two weeks led to a signficant increase in running speed over short distances. Meanwhile, endurance athletes saw greater improvements in their disciplines when they hunkered down through resistance training at low frequencies but high loads.
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7. Prioritize Recovery
Don’t underestimate the benefits of a day off—or a bag of ice on your aching legs. Conclusions from two meta-analyses indicate icing and/or ice baths can alleviate muscle soreness and boost recovery times. Of course, you want to make sleep a big emphasis as well.
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8. Manage Longer Training Distances
Ultrarunners suffer the most injuries, due to the high mileage and instances of overuse and overtraining. Don’t just grind through long runs: More mileage doesn’t necessarily mean faster, better progress. The risk of injury increases as training distances increase—so think twice before pushing yourself through back-to-back double-digit days. Listen to your body, dial up the distance slowly, and incorporate cross-training to mitigate the risks of long-distance training.
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9. Properly Taper Pre-Race
Tapering, or backing off on your training in the leadup to race day, is a common practice among runners, and the data supports it. An analysis of 182 studies on tapering shows that a two-week taper led to increased performance for runners. Drop your training volume anywhere from 41-60 percent.
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10. Get in the Right Mindset
Any seasoned runner will tell you that running is as much a mental exercise as a physical one. And they’re right: Data from 51 studies including over 4,500 athletes suggests having a goal-oriented mindset is a strong factor in running performance, especially for endurance athletes.
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10 Science-Backed Tips Guaranteed to Make You a Better Runner appeared first on Men's Journal.