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The 25 Golden Rules of Running

By Bob Cooper, Runner’s World
6/26/2013 11:27:21 AM

In most cases, these rules started out as a lightbulb over one runner's head. After a while, that runner told a few running buddies (probably during a long run), word spread, and before you know it, coaches were testing it, sports scientists were studying it, and it evolved from idea to theory to accepted wisdom. Along with each of the rules we present, however, we list the exception. Why? Because, as you also learned in grade school, there's an exception to every rule.

Credit: Runner's World

1. The Specificity Rule

The most effective training mimics the event for which you're training.

This is the cardinal rule of training for any activity. If you want to run a 10-K at seven-minute-per-mile pace, you need to do some running at that pace. "Runners are best served by running at goal pace and in the expected environment of that race," says Ann Snyder, Ph.D., director of the human performance lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The Exception: It's impractical to wholly mimic a race--particularly longer distances--in training because it would require extended recovery. So, when doing race-specific training, keep the total distance covered shorter than the goal race, or run at your race pace in shorter segments with rest breaks (interval training).

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2. The 10-Percent Rule

Increase weekly training mileage by no more than 10 percent per week.

Joe Henderson, the first editor of Runner's World, and Joan Ullyot, M.D., author of three women's running books, first popularized the 10-percent prescription in the 1980s. "I noticed that runners who increased their training load too quickly were incurring injuries," says Dr. Ullyot.

The Exception: If you're starting at single-digit weekly mileage after a layoff, you can add more than 10 percent per week until you're close to your normal training load.

3. The 2-Hour Rule

Wait for about two hours after a meal before running.

"For most people, two hours is enough time for food to empty from the stomach, especially if it's high carbohydrate," says Colorado sports dietitian and marathoner Cindy Dallow, Ph.D. "If you don't wait long enough, food will not be properly digested, raising the risk of abdominal cramps, bloating, and even vomiting."

The Exception: You can probably run 90 minutes after a light, high-carb meal, while you may need up to three hours after a heavy meal that's high in protein and fat.

4. The 10-Minute Rule

Start every run with 10 minutes of walking and slow running, and do the same to cool down.

"A warmup prepares your body for exercise by gradually increasing blood flow and raising core muscle temperature," says Jerry Napp, a Tampa Bay running coach. "The cooldown may be even more important. Stopping abruptly can cause leg cramps, nausea, dizziness, or fainting."

The Exception: It takes less than 10 minutes to rev up on warm days.

5. The 2-Day Rule

If something hurts for two straight days while running, take two days off.

Two straight days of pain may signal the beginning of an injury. "Even taking five days of complete rest from running will have little impact on your fitness level," says Troy Smurawa, M.D., team physician for USA Triathlon.

The Exception: If something hurts for two weeks, even if you've taken your rest days, see a doctor.

6. The Familiar-Food Rule

Don't eat or drink anything new before or during a race or hard workout.

Stick to what works for you. "Your gastrointestinal tract becomes accustomed to a certain mix of nutrients," says Dallow. "You can normally vary this mix without trouble, but you risk indigestion when prerace jitters are added."

The Exception: If you're about to bonk, eating something new is probably better than eating nothing at all.

PLUS: 10 Foods That Boost Training Results

7. The Race-Recovery Rule

For each mile that you race, allow one day of recovery before returning to hard training or racing.

That means no speed workouts or racing for six days after a 10-K or 26 days after a marathon. The rule's originator was the late Jack Foster, the masters marathon world record holder (2:11:18) from 1974 to 1990. Foster wrote in his book, Tale of the Ancient Marathoner, "My method is roughly to have a day off racing for every mile I raced."

The Exception: If your race effort wasn't all-out, taking fewer recovery days is okay.

8. The Heads-Beats-Tails Rule

A headwind always slows you down more than a tailwind speeds you up.

So expect to run slower on windy days. "I disregard the watch on really windy days because headwinds cost me 15 to 25 seconds a mile, and I only get a portion of that back after I turn around," says Monte Wells, a longtime runner in Amarillo, Texas, America's windiest city. "The key is to monitor your effort, not your pace. Start against the wind, so it's at your back in the second half."

The Exception: On point-to-point runs with the wind at your back, you'll fly along faster than usual.

PLUS: How to Measure Your Training Efforts

9. The Conversation Rule

You should be able to talk in complete sentences while running.

A recent study found that runners whose heart and breathing rates were within their target aerobic zones could comfortably recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Those who couldn't were running faster than optimal.

The Exception: Talking should not be easy during hard runs, speedwork, or races.

10. The 20-Mile Rule

Build up to and run at least one 20-miler before a marathon.

"Long runs simulate the marathon, which requires lots of time on your feet," says Gina Simmering-Lanterman, director and marathon coach of the Denver Fit training program. "And knowing that you can run 20 miles helps you wrap your head around running 26.2."

The Exception: Some coaches believe experienced marathoners can get by with a longest run of 16 to 18 miles, while other coaches suggest runs up to 24 miles.

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