Tried and True Rules of Running

Follow these 16 Rules for Better Running

Man and woman running together
Jordan Siemens

No matter how long you’ve been a runner, it’s helpful to review some of the classic running rules that have proven themselves over and over again. Here are some of the tried-and-true principles of running:

1. Find your running shoes and stick to them.

Go to a running specialty store and get fitted for the proper shoes for your foot and gait. If they work for you, don’t mess with a good thing. Just pray that they are never discontinued.

2. Breathe from your belly.

Taking deep breaths from your belly while you’re running will allow you take in more oxygen, and also help you avoid side stitches. To do deep belly breathing, take a deep breath in and push your stomach out while pushing down and out with your diaphragm. If your upper chest is expanding, you're breathing too shallow. Then breathe out slowly and evenly through your mouth.

3. Listen to your body.

Pay attention when something just doesn’t feel right. If you’re feeling sluggish, achy, or lightheaded, it might be a sign of overtraining, a potential injury, or a nutritional deficiency. Don’t just ignore it. If something doesn’t feel right, take a rest day. Talk to your healthcare professional if symptoms persist.

4. Don’t skip your warm up.

No matter what type of run you're doing, it's important to warm-up beforehand to get the blood flowing, and your muscles warmed up for exercise.

Your ​warm-up can be a 5-minute brisk walk or slow jog, or warm-up exercises such as jumping jacks, knee lifts, marching in place, or butt kicks.

5. Don’t continue running if you’re limping.

Running with a limp is a huge red flag of a running injury. If you’re running with pain and without proper form, not only could you make your injury worse, you may develop another injury.

If you feel pain, pay attention to your gait. If it’s off, cut your run short and rest or cross-train (as long as it’s pain-free) instead.

6. Run against traffic.

Don’t turn your back on oncoming cars. If you're in the dark or low-light conditions, you'll be able to see oncoming headlights. You’ll be much safer if you can see them coming at you, so you can get out of the way if they don’t see you. In some areas, it's not even a matter of choice -- the law requires that runners and walkers face oncoming traffic.

7. Don’t increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent.

To prevent overuse injuries, don’t make huge jumps in your mileage. You shouldn’t bump up your mileage by more than 10 percent week-to-week. You can still push yourself, but be patient and take a gradual approach. Use common sense and a smart training schedule to decide how much you should be running.

8. Hydrate during runs.

If you're running longer than 30 minutes, you really need to hydrate during your run to avoid the effects of dehydration.

The current fluid recommendations for runners say that you should drink when your mouth is dry and you feel the need to drink.

9. Run at a conversational pace for easy runs.

Most of your runs should be done at easy, conversational pace, which means you should be able to speak in complete sentences without gasping for air.  If you can’t do that, slow down your pace.

10. Get plenty of sleep.

Sleep is important for anyone trying to live a healthy lifestyle, but it's especially important to runners because of the demands that we put on our bodies. Aim for at least seven to eight hours a night. Add an extra hour if you’re in heavy training. Don’t feel guilty about that post-long run nap.

11. Replace your running shoes every 400 miles or so.

Your shoes start breaking down at that point, and running in worn-out shoes could lead to pain and injury. Check your shoes for signs they need to be replaced.

12. Your long run should never be more than half your weekly total.

That means if you’re running 30 miles a week, your long run should be no more than 15 miles.

13. Don’t run long or hard two days in a row.

A hard workout or very long run should be followed by a rest day or easy workout, like a short, easy-paced run.

14. Cross-train when you’re injured.

An injury doesn’t mean you have to stop all activity. With most injuries, you can still do alternate forms of exercise, as long as they don’t cause pain. Swimming, water running, walking, and cycling are all excellent ways for runners to maintain their fitness while rehabbing an injury.

15. Do strength training a couple of times a week.

Strength-training to increase muscle strength and get toned (not bulky) can immensely help runners reduce their injury risk and improve performance.

All runners can benefit from strength training once or twice a week to build strength and endurance and improve injury resistance. Make sure you’re working your entire body, including core, upper body, and lower body muscles.

16. Nothing new on race day.

If you didn’t try it out during training, don’t experiment with it in a race. That rule applies to shoes, clothes, gear, nutrition, and hydration. You don’t want to find out halfway through a race that your brand-new, cool-looking running shorts cause inner-thigh chafing.

Follow these rules and whether you're a new runner, you want to develop better ​habits of successful runners, or keep ​​​running in your 50s and beyond, you will run better.

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