It’s January and it’s dark. While other people are complaining about the lack of light and the long, dark days, you can be on the flipside and run to the dark side to help you maximize your winter training. If you work during the daylight hours, running in the dark can be requisite to continuing outdoor training in the winter. And especially if you are training for an ultra event or a stage race in which you will be running some night legs, training your body systems and legs to handle the dark is crucial to your success in off-road racing.
Night running has been frowned on for reasons including safety and daylight awareness. However, with proper gear and preparation, safety can be addressed. And according to recent research, athletes may actually benefit more from exercise at night due to increased body temperature and cortisol levels which may contribute to overall increases in strength and agility.
Why not maximize the dark for neuromuscular training and adaptation for your off-road running/events!? Three main body systems collaborate to achieve dynamic postural balance: eyes (vision), ears (vestibular) and body space/joint position awareness (proprioception). Running in the dark can help to wake up your proprioceptive system, making your muscles stronger and more efficient for unstable terrain. Ankles are huge proprioceptive players and training them to respond well in the absence of light can have positive effects on strength and dynamic balance while running as well as overall injury prevention.
Here are some tips for maximizing your NIGHT MOVES:
1. Find a trusted night running partner with whom you can perform hill and plyometric drills.
2. Gear up with reflectors for your moving limbs.
3. Invest in a good running headlamp that will allow you to have your hands free while running and performing drills.
4. Get into a simple routine of running drills and plyometrics to add to your night runs a few times a week:
Try incorporating this simple routine!! Find a grassy hill or dirt path, obstacle-free and safe. Perform 12Xshort hill repeats, alternating regular running with skipping and reciprocal high-knee drills. Then go for 3X10 each double-leg hops uphill, then downhill for a proprioceptive/plyometric mix that will get your legs ready for off-road racing……
especially important for training to race for night running in the sand!!