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Don't Be Scared Of Running In The Dark

And in terms of motivation to get through the winter months, that might just be a deciding factor when you're hovering, in two minds with your trainers in hand, wondering whether you should brave the chill night air or not!
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There's no two ways about it - running at night can be a slightly nerve-wracking experience.

Most keen runners have felt themselves quickening the pace as they sprint through spooky stretches of road, trail or wood.

Now that the clocks have gone back, heralding in the dark nights, those lightless jogs might be a necessary evil until next spring.

But the good news for head torch warriors is that being deprived of light could actually help protect you from strains, tears and ligament damage, re-wiring the brain to help you jog more efficiently - or at least be more aware of obstacles that may cause injuries.

And there's good science behind it, too.

First things first - if you're planning to run outdoors at night for the first time, be careful, as I'd expect people to be more prone to ankle injuries, where they step off kerbs or roll their ankles on uneven surfaces.

However something more interesting comes into play, a concept called 'proprioception'.

This is the innate sense a person uses to understand the position of their own body parts.

And, put simply, the darker it is when you're running, the harder you're working your proprioception, forcing it to adapt, strengthen and improve.

You have lots of different ways of getting sensory information into your body while you're running, which is important for making decisions on muscular movements and co-ordination.

One of those ways is through your eyes.

When you're running at nighttime and your vision is obscured partially, or it's not at an optimal level, that's going to limit the sensory information you receive and your other senses have to work harder to compensate.

And all of this means that, deprived of sensory input, you're massively relying on your ankle stability and reaction times to avoid injury.

In the short term, you might end up picking up a few strains and niggles.

But in the long term, running in the dark might actually lead to a slight increase in your proprioception.

In the clinic, we often get patients to take part in proprioception exercises where they're blindfolded or limit their ability to do tasks with their favoured choice of action and then put them through their paces.

It's called 'Constraint Induced Therapy' and it creates neuroplastic changes within the brain as a stress response.

There have been studies that have showed how this increased load on the proprioceptive system and the brain forces it to adapt.... and improve.

The upshot of this is that, provided you don't pick up any injuries when you first start running at night, your brain should eventually adapt to a point where it thrives in this environment.

Stick at it for long enough, and you could end up running more efficiently than you have done before.

And in terms of motivation to get through the winter months, that might just be a deciding factor when you're hovering, in two minds with your trainers in hand, wondering whether you should brave the chill night air or not!