10 key habits for running rewards

Adopt a more positive, motivated and confident mindset this winter with these tips, and be the best runner you can be!


Power-up your thinking
Fulfilling your potential is all in the mind, say scientists at Portsmouth and Bath universities. In a study of what it takes to excel in sport, they found a combination of optimism, focus and a feeling of being in control are key, alongside tackling weaker areas with commitment, and setting goals to maintain motivation.

Lift more for greater  rewards
New research reveals it’s more efficient to lift heavier weights than do more reps of lighter implements as part of your strength regime. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln study explains that heavy weights give the nervous system a better workout, transmitting electrical signals from the brain to muscles, increasing the force the muscles produce.

Fine-tune your diet
Making small but significant changes to nutrition and fuel timing can greatly enhance running performance, say Wake Forest University scientists. Their advice includes: eat more carbs for several days before racing, consume a 200kcal snack low in fat, protein and fibre an hour before exercise, and a high-protein snack two hours after, and kick-start your metabolism with breakfast.

Run your own way
However long or short your stride is, stick with it, as it’s likely the most efficient cadence your body has, a Brigham Young University study has revealed. Experts measured the energy use of 33 runners adopting various strides, using a treadmill metronome and running for 20 minutes. Every runner was most efficient when using their preferred stride, something that ‘can’t
be coached’.

Super-charge sleep
Being inactive is essential for improved performance. Without sleep the body doesn’t get enough time to recover, heal and strengthen for the next run. Sleep can also help with hydration, and boost the weight-loss effect of running. A study by the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine suggests that athletes’ performance may benefit from up to ten hours’ sleep – that’s around two hours more than the average person. 

Stay active
Recommendations from the NHS encourage people to complete at least 10,000 steps a day. A rest day does not mean you are handcuffed to the sofa, TV remote in hand – keep the ball rolling with some light activity. A gentle swim or social bike ride will allow consistency and ward off any stiffness after a hard run the day before. 

Stretch it out
We all know we should stretch, but many of us don’t. But it doesn’t need to add time to your training – you can do it while you’re watching TV. It is so important in preventing injury and increasing mobility. Use dynamic stretches pre-run to warm the muscles up, and static stretches after you run, once the muscles have been worked. The main areas to focus on
are the glutes, 

Have positive self-perception
Boost your running performance using positive self-talk, University of Freiburg scientists advise. In their study, 78 people were shown videos of exercise presented in both a negative and positive way, before completing the exercise. Results revealed that those who adopted a positive attitude found the exercise easiest.

Refuel efficiently
Be sure to refuel within 30 minutes of a run. Replenish glycogen energy stores with carbs, such as pasta; to reduce inflammation have healthy fats like nuts, instead of reaching for junk food; and, to rebuild muscles, eat a good protein source, such as beans. Try to consume 1g of carbs per kilogram of bodyweight, and about one quarter of that in protein. Scheduling runs just before meals helps ensure you’re not running on a full stomach.

Rest up
Not everyone can be the running legend that is Ron Hill, who until January this year, ran every day for 52 years and 39 days. Nor should they be. Running every day can put huge strain on your muscles and does not allow adequate time to rest. This can often result in ‘overtraining syndrome’ where piling on the miles actually causes a decrease in pace and fitness, and a high possibility of injury.