Dynamic Warm Up
About a year ago, my coach made me start doing dynamic warm up exercises before I went for each run. At first I scoffed at him, thinking “why are we wasting time doing this, surely I will warm up as I run?!” . However, it was only when my hamstring became so angry that I could not run one day that I realized just how much it helps. I cannot imagine not doing them now.
Eating within that magic window
This is probably the most important one to me. This could be because I was a DI collegiate coach for 2 years and I saw just how often the athletes would not be prepared enough to bring something to eat for after their runs. I felt like a parrot that kept chirping, “go eat, go eat!” but so many runners do not realize how important it is. Even if I am away from home, I make sure I have a protein bar, banana, or some kind of carbohydrate and protein drink within 45 minutes to start the recovery process off right.
I know, I know. We all know how important it is, but it hurts so much! Does it really make that much of a difference? Yes, actually! I have only really found out just how much in the last year, as I always believed it was not worth the pain, but it really does help keep your muscles loose. You feel so much better the next day, and the more consistent you are with it; the less it hurts (I promise!). I actually now use a PVC pipe as the traditional foam roller is not enough anymore. I also have a roll recovery. If you have not seen those, I would check them out, they are a great recovery tool, and help loosen the muscles up before you foam roll….making it less painful ☺
In the past I used to think that lifting heavy weights would make me big and bulky. I avoided them, and used 10-15lb dumbbells and body weight exercises. However, older and wiser, I have a strength coach, and he has me lifting all kinds of heavy weights and more of the traditional weightlifting style exercises (rows, deadlifts, farmer carry). At first I was scared of what these exercises would do to me, but now I love how much stronger I am. Not only that, but he awoke my glute muscles so they actually help out when I am running now 😉
This is where people might roll their eyes at me, and please read everything I say here. I went to the UVA speed clinic, where they did a full body gait analysis. They spent 3 hours with me, and we had a lot of changes to make. I paid $350 for the experience, but it was SO worth it. I feel stronger, I feel happier, and I have less injuries. If you can get to a full body gait analysis lab to assess your form, it would really help you in so many ways!
Eat the rainbow
I love purchasing all kinds of fruits and vegetables for the week when I go to the store. If you chose a vegetable (or a few) and make a meal around those, it makes it very easy to get in what you need, rather than having a meal in mind and just picking a vegetable as a side last-minute. I love to make stir fry’s and colorful meals with lots of different fruits and vegetables. That way you get all the vitamins and minerals you need from your diet, and there is no need for supplements ☺
Eat meatless once per week
This goes along with eating the rainbow, but most people really do eat too much meat. I do have red meat at least once per week, but I try to get some of my protein from meatless sources. Not only is that good for your health, but it is good for your wallet and the environment. I do a meatless Monday post every Monday on my blog, and other bloggers add their recipes. This gives lots of great ideas. By going meatless once a week, you are forced to be a bit more creative with recipes, which also makes it more fun. I try to make a whole grain like quinoa or rice the base, and then make it into a meal from there. Have fun with it, and see what you can come up with ☺
Drink a hot drink first thing in the morning
I am not a coffee drinker, but I always start my day with a chai or green tea. I find this really helps with getting your digestive system working, which gives you one less thing to worry about on your run (especially a race!). Green tea also gives your metabolism a boost, which we all would like!
Eat plain before workouts or races
So many new runners tell me they have an upset stomach, and I find out they had a salad for lunch before they ran. I did mention earlier to eat the rainbow, but before hard days or races you want to eat as white as possible. Foods with color tend to be higher in fiber, and that is not what you want before a race. Once you have found a food that sits well in your stomach, stick to it. I have 1-cup oatmeal with milk and a banana as my go to pre-hard run/race meal.
Listen to your body
Saved the best for last as this can be the one we all struggle with the most, myself included. With all our gps watches, fitbits, and heart rate monitors, we have become dependent on our technology. However, if you listen, your body often tells you what it needs. I made my biggest jumps as a runner when I slowed down my easy pace. Yes, it does sometimes feel like I am barely moving, but it means that I can run faster on the days that matter, so it is worth it. I have had to swallow my pride to slow down, but the outcomes are so worth it. This also goes for pains. I have always found that I know in my “gut” whether this is something to run through or not. I often find I am rewarded if I take a few days off right away, but if you run through it when you know in your heart something is not right, that is when we end up with serious injury…. I am still learning this one too, don’t worry ☺