Updated 02 February 2015

5 things every runner should know

These are five techniques and tips all runners need - whether you've been doing it for years, or are just starting off now.

From mental strategies to the power of the colour red, we show you five things every runner should know and teach you techniques that will help you improve your running performance:

Running is a mental game

Being a good runner has as much to do with your state of mind as it has to do with your one mile time.  If you don’t manage to keep mentally strong during your run you can kiss goodbye to a good performance. To keep your mind focused you should put any negative thoughts to the back of your mind and instead focus on all of the progress you have made since you began running.

Some people also benefit from blocking out the process of running altogether and find it beneficial to instead distract their focus by thinking about a story or getting lost in a daydream. Although this distraction is great for some, other runners may benefit from concentrating on the run itself and turn their attention to their breathing or the route. If you don’t feel like either of these mental strategies is of use to you, try using mental imagery when running, where you picture yourself as someone or something else, such as Paula Radcliffe or a river. Pretending to be these people or things during your run may boost your confidence in your abilities and it might positively impact upon your run.

Wearing red clothes and seam-free socks will improve your run

In most situations in life the clothes you wear are chosen for practical purposes and as a way of self-expression, but the clothes you wear when running can make or break your run. Make sure you choose the right clothes for your run or race. For example, did you know that wearing red could help you win? According to research conducted at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, competitors who wore red were more likely to win when competing.

Other important yet often overlooked items of clothing include your socks. Runners often have problems with their feet and wearing appropriate clothing, such as the right socks, will help you avoid some of these problems. Avoid wearing cheap cotton socks that have seams in as these can lead to blisters and painful chafing that will affect your run. Instead invest in some running socks that are seam-free and wick away sweat. You should also be conscious about the thickness of your running sock and be aware that your feet will expand when hot. Wear socks that will give your feet enough room.

Running when relaxed is important

Running when relaxed is very important because stress and nerves can negatively affect your running performance and your running technique. During your run you should try to keep your hands relaxed because this will help to stop tension passing through your body to your neck and should area. If you feel as though your hands are tensing up, shake them about for a few seconds every minute or so until they relax. 

Another way you can help your body relax during your run is to keep your head erect and try to rid your facial muscles of any tension. To do this focus on keeping your face muscles lax, especially your eyes and your jaw. Other more mental focused approaches you can adopt in order to run better include repeating a calming mantra or imagining that you are floating along as you run. These techniques should help you to relax and therefore they should help you to improve your run.

Alcohol is a runner’s enemy

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol obviously comes with lots of health implications, but alcohol has additional drawbacks if you are a runner. Firstly, alcohol will dehydrate you and this in turn will prevent your body from being able to break down your energy stores and thus fuel your run. As a result your body’s blood sugar levels will be low and that means that you won’t be able to sweat efficiently or regulate your temperature appropriately.  Consequently, when hungover your run will be tiring, sluggish and you will feel unusually weak.

Yet despite alcohol’s detrimental effects on both health and performance, research conducted by the University of Miami found that the more people exercise, the more people tend to drink. If you think you’re amongst this growing group of drinkers who exercise, try to cut down or, if you can’t, try to drink one glass of water between each alcoholic drink you have.

Running isn’t enough

If you run three or four or five times a week, good for you. Yet no matter how many times you run, you need to do other forms of exercise and additional activities too if you want to be a good runner.

Doing other forms of exercise in order to improve your abilities in one area is known as cross training. There are many benefits to cross training, from injury prevention to improving your running speed. In order to cross train you could try doing some weight sessions, some flexibility sessions or try out some new activities like swimming, boxing or cycling.


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