Fitness and Performance

Do Less to get More from your training

Mar 15 2018

Runners often believe that in order to smash their goals, they need to be training hard, every single day… Can you blame them for thinking this? You want to get good at something, you’ve got to practice it! Right?

Yes and no.

Of course, you need to get a structured running programme in place in order for you to progressively work towards hitting those goals BUT research is telling us that it is absolutely paramount that we are scheduling those rest days in too! In fact, perhaps MORE emphasis should be made on those rest days over the training days.

Running puts your body under significant amounts of physical stress. This physical stress can affect joints, muscle tissue, tendons and bone. If we push that physical stress beyond the threshold that the body can withstand, we begin to see injuries.

What runners often forget is the non-physical stress they are also putting themselves under: stress at work, stress at home, stress financially, stress within relationships, stress from drinking and partying too much etc, etc. These other ‘stressors’ significantly alter your body’s hormonal balance which in turn makes it exceptionally hard to recover well.

Managing certain stress in your life isn’t always so easy, but there are plenty of things Runners can be doing to optimise their recovery and therefore performance!

  • Ensure you are scheduling in Rest days in your running programme (certainly after a Long Run day)
  • On rest days DO NOTHING! No cross-training, no strengthening, and not too much partying; let your body recover – BE LAZY!
  • Aim to get 8-10 hours of sleep per night
  • Schedule in naps on the weekend
  • Taper your running 2-3 weeks before an event

Where do 80% of runners go wrong?

It is thought that anywhere between 65-80% of runners will get injured in during their lifetime running. And it is thought that 80% of these injuries are due to what we call Training Error.

What is Training Error I hear you cry? How on earth can I avoid this?

Training Error is simply a mistake in the way you have carried out your training. Typically, this can be a sudden increase in the amount you are running (i.e going from 5k three times per week to 10km four times per week). It can also be due to an imbalance in your high and low level intensity training. It can often be due to an uneven spread of training across the week i.e. doing all your runs on the weekend (I’m looking at you Weekend Warriors!). Commonly it can also be due to inadequate rest and recovery (I won’t go into this again…)

It might sound so simple, but training suboptimally in this way can be hugely detrimental to your progress, goals and health! If you are training for an event or simply wanting to get fitter by running, please do sit down and PLAN your running for the future. Here are some handy tips we give our runners:

  • Physically write or print out a Running Diary and plan and use this to keep you going off piste
  • Work backwards from your event and schedule your runs according to the number of weeks you have available
  • Consider the 10% rule: incrementally increase your run distance each week by 10% to avoid training error
  • Think about scheduling 3 runs in per week, often the long run being the weekend
  • Schedule in and honour the Rest Days!

Is stretching enough?

Wow, if I had a penny for every time I heard a runner tell me that “I do stretch – I don’t understand why I have a running related injury” then I think I’d finally be able to pay off my student loan!

We all remember those cold, miserable days in P.E. when it would be time for the dreaded cross country. Your P.E teacher would tell you to run to the other side of the field then ‘do a few stretches’ which would be done very much half-heartedly (if you weren’t having mud balls thrown at you) and then you’d be on your way! The idea of stretching has long been part of our culture of ‘warming up’ and ‘cooling down’. But perhaps it’s time to leave it in the Dark Age with Mr Ballantine on that school field?

Yes, arguably, stretching does have a place with preparing and priming tissue and joints for running. But in order for our bodies to be able to withstand the load of running more effectively we have got to start considering strengthening exercises in conjunction with stretching alone.

When we strike the ground during running, the force we put back up through our limbs is 2.5 to 3 times our body weight. That’s a lot of load for one step! If we think we then take around 150 steps per MINUTE when running, we can begin to see how important it is for our limbs and body to have the strength to withstand that load.

Strengthening in my eyes is absolutely paramount for my runners. This is in terms of injury prevention and for injury rehabilitation. Exercise programmes that are multimodal (i.e. include strengthening, dynamic stretching, skill training, foam rolling and cross-training etc, etc) have been proven to be the most optimal. Strengthening alone has shown massive improvements in performance and reducing the risk of injury in isolation also.

So to answer the original question: no, stretching alone is not enough! Time for all our runners to get on the strength gains train and watch their PBs go through the roof!