4 New Train­ing Hacks

New re­search re­veals sur­pris­ing – and in­trigu­ing – ways to help you run bet­ter

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents -

Give your run­ning a se­ri­ous boost with th­ese in­trigu­ing new tips and work­out ideas

Run­ners are crea­tures of habit: we tend to latch on to par­tic­u­lar train­ing strate­gies and per­sist with them un­til we get bored or burn out. If your rou­tine feels stale, try shak­ing it up with science. Re­searchers are al­ways work­ing to ex­am­ine how ath­letes re­spond to dif­fer­ent train­ing tech­niques, and some­times th­ese stud­ies re­veal ef­fec­tive new ways to chal­lenge your body and build your fit­ness.


Oc­ca­sion­ally shift­ing into re­verse may help your body burn fuel more ef­fi­ciently on ev­ery run, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study. Re­searchers found that in­cor­po­rat­ing back­ward run­ning into train­ing for 10 weeks was enough to im­prove for­ward-run­ning econ­omy by 2.5 per cent in well-trained run­ners. This im­prove­ment oc­curs be­cause the un­fa­mil­iar mo­tion places a greater de­mand on the heart and lungs than mov­ing for­ward at a sim­i­lar pace.

Back­ward run­ning – or any ex­er­cise that forces you to move in a di­rec­tion other than straight ahead – will also strengthen your sta­bil­is­ing mus­cles and build co­or­di­na­tion, says Courte­nay Schur­man, moun­taineer­ing con­di­tion­ing coach with Bodyre­sults.com. And re­verse lo­co­mo­tion will tar­get your quadri­ceps, mak­ing it es­pe­cially help­ful for run­ners who train on flat ter­rain (which taxes mainly the ham­strings). An­other bonus is that your core gets a work­out, as you will nat­u­rally try to main­tain a straight back. DO IT Start by adding five or six back­ward jaunts of 25-50m once or twice a week on a flat, low-traf­fic sur­face af­ter an easy run.


High-en­ergy mu­sic (with at least 125 beats per minute) has po­tent pump-up prop­er­ties, but slow tunes can also play a role in train­ing. The au­thors of a new study found that when sub­jects lis­tened to slow-tempo mu­sic right af­ter a 20-minute tread­mill run, their heart rates re­turned to a rest­ing state more quickly than when they lis­tened to live­lier mu­sic. Re­searchers spec­u­late that lis­ten­ing to slowtempo mu­sic dur­ing the ‘off’ pe­ri­ods of speed or tempo work­outs would have a sim­i­lar ef­fect. Psy­chol­o­gist and per­for­mance con­sul­tant Costas Kara­georghis, au­thor of Ap­ply­ing Mu­sic in Ex­er­cise and Sport (Human Ki­net­ics), of­fers one ex­pla­na­tion for this: when the body is heav­ily fa­tigued, heart and breath­ing rates tend to lock into the rhyth­mic qual­i­ties of mu­sic. DO IT Make a playlist that in­cludes one or two fast-tempo songs to pump your­self up be­fore a high-in­ten­sity run, then add slow-tempo songs to play dur­ing the re­cov­ery por­tions. Kara­georghis rec­om­mends songs that are 100-120 bpm for ac­tive re­cov­ery. Keep the mu­sic off while go­ing fast to stay at­tuned to your sense of ef­fort and form, he says.


Be­gin­ners to our sport have long been us­ing walk breaks to re­cover from their run­ning ef­forts and to get used to stay­ing out longer, but sea­soned run­ners who are ex­per­i­ment­ing with chal­leng­ing climbs can ben­e­fit from them as well. Re­search pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Ap­plied Phys­i­ol­ogy shows that walk­ing up steep hills (in­clines greater than 15.8 de­grees) is more ef­fi­cient in terms of en­ergy ex­pen­di­ture than run­ning up them at the same speed. Walk­ing steep hills keeps your heart rate con­trolled and pre­vents you from hit­ting your anaer­o­bic thresh­old, the point at which the body switches to burn­ing only carbs for en­ergy and lac­tic acid be­gins to build up, says run­ning coach Re­bekah Mayer. DO IT At the foot of an un­re­lent­ing hill, break the chal­lenge into three sec­tions. Run the first third of the in­cline, then switch to a brisk walk. Once you’re two-thirds of the way up, assess your ef­fort level, ad­vises Mayer. If your breath­ing has stead­ied, you can run again, but if you’re still winded, con­tin­u­ing to walk briskly will help you con­serve en­ergy with­out cost­ing you too much time.


Coaches and sci­en­tists have be­gun to won­der if we ought to be com­pletely fu­elled dur­ing all of our train­ing. ‘Low-glyco­gen train­ing works by lim­it­ing carb avail­abil­ity within the mus­cle,’ says Trent Stelling­w­erff, lead phys­i­ol­o­gist at the Cana­dian Sport In­sti­tute. ‘This new stres­sor leads to the body adapt­ing in a way that leaves it bet­ter pre­pared for op­ti­mis­ing fuel us­age in the fu­ture.’ The goal is to do a run in a glyco­gen­de­pleted state and, as such, the strat­egy brings a higher risk of over­train­ing and slower splits than a fully fu­elled work­out. For th­ese rea­sons it’s a tech­nique that needs to be in­tro­duced grad­u­ally and used spar­ingly – maybe three or four times dur­ing marathon train­ing. DO IT Do an af­ter­noon or evening run and then come back the next morn­ing for a long run that in­cludes a slight in­crease in pace in the last few miles. This pick-up al­lows you to train at an up­tempo pace while in a fuel-de­pleted state, du­pli­cat­ing what you will need to do in a marathon. Eat your last reg­u­lar meal (enough to fill you up, but low on carbs) more than 10 hours be­fore your morn­ing run. For break­fast, drink only cof­fee and/or wa­ter.

If you run back­wards on a track, stick to the outer lanes for safety.

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