I may not be the fastest runner, I may not be elite. I may not have a six pack like Kara Goucher or the endurance of Dean Karnazes. But, I’m a runner. Hopefully, my 7 years of doing this have taught me something worth sharing. For what its worth, here’s my advice to those of you who are a little newer to the sport:
- Hydrate and don’t drink alcohol before runs: Try not to drink for about 3 days before a race. I’ll admit to having had a beer or a couple of glasses of wine on a Friday before a long run but, I paid dearly for it and it wasn’t fun. Also, hydrate like crazy and not just with water. Get your electrolytes in there. Gatorade has a lot of unnecessary salt so stick to coconut water or dilute your Gatorade with 50% water. Nuun tablets aren’t bad either so check them out.
- Stretch after you run: stretching is important for recover but is often skipped (especially by guys for some reason). I feel a significant difference in my recovery if I don’t stretch after my run. I’m stiff, crampy and sore. It takes 10 minutes so just do it. You’ll be happy you did.
- Nutrition before, during and after: You have to start experimenting with what works best for you.
- Before: No need to eat a whole box of pasta before a race but definitely increase carbs a little and make sure you don’t eat anything with too much grease or dairy (unless you want to have an uncomfortable and possibly embarrassing run).
- During: I recently had the epiphany that the serious irritable bowel I would get for a FULL DAY after doing my half marathons was actually the result of using Gu products during my runs. I switched to Cliff brand gels and miraculously no longer have to the need to spend so much quality time with my toilet after I race. Gross but true… If you’re going to do more than 6 miles you’ll probably want to take a gel (around mile 4) so see which brand your tummy likes. If you’ve been running for longer, you may not need a gel until you run more than 9.
- After: A recovery meal should have some serious nutrients to help your body recover. i.e. salmon and quinoa, dark leafy greens… red wine… just saying.
- Sleep: Just do as much of this as possible in the days leading up to the race.
- Clothing: Please don’t make the mistake of wearing cotton, unless you have some sort of masochistic desire to chafe under your arm pits, nipples or inner thighs and/or pass out from heat stroke. Wear dry wick clothing, including socks. (Both my sister and I recently discovered that dry wick underwear is sometimes necessary. We have an embarrassing chafing story to prove it but will spare you the details.)
- Pace yourself: Nobody likes to feel that they’re being pushed beyond what they feel comfortable doing. That being said, don’t under-estimate what you are capable of. I underestimated myself for quite some time and regret not having just gotten those false limitations out of my head and tried harder earlier on. i.e. do what your heart tells you.
- Cross train/ strengthen: This is an important part of injury prevention. I was recently told by a triathlon coach that, as a runner, my “frontward moving muscles are overdeveloped and compensate for the other muscles in my legs.” This is what can lead to knee pains, piriformis syndrome (back of thigh/ lower butt), sciatic pain etc. She suggested that I do what’s called a myrtle workout a couple times a week. Check it out here! Just increase the reps to 20, not 8 as the worksheet says. http://www.njsportsmed.com/files/myrtl_routine.pdf
- Shoes: This is probably the best piece of advice I can give you because I have literally had a bad pair of shoes take me out of the season for a full month and I’ve had a bad pair of insoles hurt my knees so badly I needed a sports massage to recover. Just like nutrition, you have to experiment with what works for you but all I can say is this… if you wear a pair of Nike’s I will personally steal them away from you and drop kick them into the Atlantic. They are meant for gym rats, not those of us who hit the pavement.
I’ve probably missed some really important points here but this is a just a list to start. Please comment on this post below with other things that newbies MUST know.
Go to your happy pace,
Today it was difficult to get out there and run. I’m both exhausted and lazy… but these are the rewards I must remember when I find myself wanting to take a day off.
Firstly, I feel so much more energized. True, I was exhausted when I came home from work and almost passed out on the couch. True, the LAST thing in the universe I wanted to do was anything physical. But it is ALSO true that once you force your body into motion, you begin to realize that most of our day to day exhaustion is emotional or mental and not physical. I have more energy after having run 4 miles than if I had slept an hour. Go figure!
Secondly, I got some outdoor time. Most office jobs (or teaching jobs, for that matter) don’t allot for time outdoors. We spend most of our time breathing in the same stale air under artificial lighting. I’ve even had two jobs in which I worked in offices without windows! Can you imagine not getting a glimpse of sunlight for 8 hours of every day?!?!
After my run, I walked across the street to the beach and enjoyed this view. I saw a little girl chasing small water birds whose species I don’t know, a flock of prehistoric looking pelicans flying across the darkening sky and a sailboat with some very lucky passengers pass by close to shore. What could be better than that?