As we run into the New Year, we look back on what we learned in 2013. Some of our latest rules to run by come from new and groundbreaking research, while others are based on tried-and-true principles runners have been following for decades. As you jumpstart your 2014 season, consider these bits of wisdom for faster, stronger and healthier running. While there are no guarantees when it comes to our sport, these rules to run by may just help you reach that next level.
Maintain Training Balance
This may be the most obvious, but also most ignored rule of running. Following the principles of periodization, a runner should utilize a strategic training plan that balances intervals, easy days, tempo runs, long runs and rest days. With an organized training program that takes into consideration your fitness and experience levels, you'll see your performance increase incrementally with a reduced chance of injury. If you are a fairly new runner, this is where consulting a coach comes in handy. Every runner is different in terms of what they can handle and how quickly their body adapts, so it is important to tailor the plan to your own needs.
Warm Up Dynamically
While most runners know it is important to warm up their muscles before competition or workouts, it can be challenging to know exactly how to do that. A large body of recent research has shown that a dynamic warm-up is more beneficial than static stretching. In addition to a short jog, include exercises like butt kicks, high knees and skipping before your next track session or tempo run to prime your muscles to fire properly during those high-intensity sessions.
Include High-Intensity Training
If you're interested in getting faster and stronger in the New Year, it's important to include some high intensity days in your training program. With a reputation for boosting VO2 max, interval training is one of the best ways to do that. A recent review of 37 separate studies on the topic showed that the best way to execute intervals is in 3- to 5-minute bouts of faster running. Any longer and it could leave you sidelined with an injury; any shorter and you may not reap the benefits of increased VO2 max. In a related study out last year, researchers in the UK suggest incorporating active recovery between each of those intervals, rather than full rest, in order to help clear your leg muscles of the metabolites that may slow you down.