Full speed a head

There’s more to run­ning than lac­ing up your train­ers and hit­ting the pave­ment. Boost your knowl­edge, im­prove your tech­nique and get fit­ter faster with help from the ex­pert con­trib­u­tors to the new book Run­ning Sci­ence

Men's Fitness - - Features -

THE RUN­NER’S BODY Should I breathe through my nose or my mouth?

Get­ting air into the lungs is crit­i­cal for run­ners, since it pro­vides oxy­gen that is es­sen­tial for en­ergy pro­duc­tion. The trans­port of air into and out of the lungs is known as ven­ti­la­tion and it is con­trolled by the di­aphragm, a layer of mus­cle un­der­neath the lungs, and the muscles of the rib cage, known as the in­ter­costals.

High vol­umes of air en­ter the lungs dur­ing ex­er­cise and this process be­comes in­ef­fi­cient if too much re­sis­tance is en­coun­tered. Sci­en­tists have found that when ven­ti­la­tion rates ex­ceed 40 litres of air per minute (they can reach up to 60 when run­ning at high in­ten­sity) the route that en­coun­ters least re­sis­tance is through the mouth. The nose is used but only when small vol­umes of air are re­quired.

Some ath­letes have used nasal strips to re­duce re­sis­tance and pro­mote nasal breath­ing, but re­search has demon­strated that th­ese strips have lit­tle ef­fects on ven­ti­la­tion rates or per­for­mance since the nose still of­fers more re­sis­tance than the mouth to in­com­ing and out­go­ing air.

MOVE­MENT Should I lean into my run?

The pos­ture of the trunk dur­ing run­ning is an im­por­tant tech­ni­cal as­pect for both en­hanc­ing per­for­mance (run­ning econ­omy) and min­imis­ing in­jury risk. Run­ners who lean for­wards to a greater ex­tent are more eco­nom­i­cal (which means they run faster for a given oxy­gen us­age). The for­ward lean needs to start at the an­kles, not the waist, and pro­mote align­ment of the body in a straight line. Re­search in­di­cates that the per­for­mance ben­e­fits can be at­trib­uted to greater ac­ti­va­tion of the hip ex­ten­sors (ham­strings and gluteals) dur­ing the driv­ing phase of the run­ning stance.

In ad­di­tion, a for­ward lean also re­duces the risk of in­jury. Around half the in­juries re­ported in run­ners are knee in­juries, most com­monly patellofemoral joint (PFJ) pain. In a study, in­jury-free ath­letes who ran with an “in­creased trunk lean” of around 14.1° ex­hib­ited less PFJ stress than those who

ran at 7.3° and 4°. As well as re­duc­ing knee stress, it en­gaged the large hip ex­ten­sor muscles. Main­tain­ing a for­ward lean – be­tween 10° and 16° is con­sid­ered to be op­ti­mal – with­out los­ing straight align­ment re­quires torso strength, which is why strength and mo­bil­ity ex­er­cises help im­prove run­ning per­for­mance and re­duce in­jury risk.

FUEL Can caf­feine help me run bet­ter?

Taken be­fore or dur­ing ex­er­cise, caf­feine is as­so­ci­ated with re­duced dis­com­fort and ex­er­tion, in­creased alert­ness and per­haps even an in­crease in the num­ber of mus­cle cells that are re­cruited dur­ing run­ning.

Stud­ies have demon­strated that con­sum­ing 5mg per kg of body­weight 45 to 60 min­utes be­fore ex­er­cise is usu­ally enough to im­prove per­for­mance in en­durance and shorter-du­ra­tion ac­tiv­i­ties by 3-5%. For a 72.5kg run­ner, a caf­feine dose of 5mg/kg is 363mg, which is about four espres­sos or three cups of in­stant cof­fee.

Ex­per­i­ment with caf­feine in train­ing to de­ter­mine the amount that pro­duces the best re­sults. Those who reg­u­larly con­sume caf­feine may need a larger dose than caf­feine-naïve run­ners, who may re­quire only 2mg per kg of body­weight.

PSY­CHOL­OGY Can pos­i­tive think­ing im­prove per­for­mance?

Many run­ners use psy­cho­log­i­cal tech­niques. For ex­am­ple, some en­gage in self-talk, where they speak to them­selves about how well they are per­form­ing or are about to per­form. Re­search also in­di­cates that im­agery skills can help man­age fa­tigue – run­ners men­tally re­hearse ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sen­sa­tions of fa­tigue and see them­selves cop­ing suc­cess­fully. Im­agery cre­ates a blue­print for the pat­tern of think­ing and be­hav­iours re­quired to deal with a sit­u­a­tion, so that when those con­di­tions oc­cur, the ath­lete can in­sti­gate the ap­pro­pri­ate cop­ing strat­egy quickly and ef­fec­tively.

When start­ing to learn how to use psy­cho­log­i­cal skills, it is good prac­tice to use them in train­ing, be­come com­pe­tent in the tech­niques and then ap­ply them in

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