We all love going out for a run, right? Well next to go out running there are lots of other things you can do to improve your running, avoid injuries or keep your motivation up. So here I want to show you some habits you can get into next to your training runs, that can turn out to be beneficial for you.
So here we go:
Training can shorten your muscles which can lead to muscle imbalances which then can lead to injuries. Stretching can help avoiding this. The main reason for stretching though, is to improve the flexibility of your body. The classic test is if you can can touch the ground with your fingers while standing with stretched legs. You can if you stretch regularly! Flexibility in running is not that important as in other sports like dancing or gymnastics but it still is, especially if you run on trails and need to jump over obstacles and your running form is not always the same as in road running.
Some times ago it was suggested that stretching can help avoid sore muscles after training but this has been scientifically proofed to be wrong. But for me it still feels great to stretch my muscles after an intense run.
I recommend you to stretch at least two or three times a week preferably an hour after your runs. Stretch you leg muscles (calves, quads, hamstrings) and also your hip muscles. A full body stretching program of course is the best to improve your overall flexibility.
As your mileage improves and you expose your body to more work you should consider some strength training to help avoid injuries and maintain a proper running form even on your longer runs. I, for example, felt some pain in my knee when training for my first Marathon back in 2013. For several weeks I strengthened my upper leg muscles (as well as running a bit less for 2-3 weeks) and since then never felt that pain again.
When you plan your strength training, not only focus on your legs but also train your hips and core muscles (abs, back). Try to plan your strength training on days you don’t run and start slowly with some exercises twice a week. The best is a gym with an instructor that can check if you do the exercises the right way but I prefer doing it on a yoga mat in front of the TV at home. The internet is a great resource for exercises that don’t need equipment but only your body weight. But if you already have weights or a Teraband at home that’s great as well.
Of course a healthy diet is important, if you’re a regular runner or not. But if you exercise more there are more specific requirements regarding nutrients. On days with a training run you need more carbohydrates and on days with intense runs or weight training you also need more protein. A good way start review your daily diet is to write down what you eat each day. There are great Apps for that like Lifesum of MyFitnessPal that let your track your nutrition intake and show you the distribution of you essential nutrients and the development over time. If you also track your training with your smart phone that’s a great way to compare if you ate right on your training and your recovery days.
Of course you already recover except you are permanently running and never sleep. But it’s very helpful to get this topic a more active focus since it’s one of the most important tasks if you want to improve. Remember with training you stimulate your body with recovery you let it react to that stimulus. Recovery is not only sitting on your sofa after a workout but you can also get a massage or go into the sauna to increase the blood flow to your muscles and loosen tens muscles. Also try to have a look on how long and how good you sleep especially on nights after trainings. If you are tired all the time it might be a sign of over-training.
This is a thing I do naturally and love to do since I’m an analytical kind of guy that loves data. If you don’t do this already you should start to track your training or write a training log. Nowadays there are great tools and Apps for your smart phone for that purpose. If you track your data like heart rate, distance and time in some kind of software, it is great to check your pace with a specific heart rate. That’s a great way to check if you’re improving without doing races all the time. Also try to write down stuff like how you felt or how good you slept on the day of the workout or how the weather and temperature were to analyze how your body reacts to these type of things.
If you run regularly no matter how long your distances are, you do more than the majority of people in the western world and you can be proud of yourself. So go out to your family and friends or all the social networking tools available and share your workouts and let all know how great you feel and how proud you are. With that you can not only bring others to move more, but you can also get credit for what you do or get helpful tips and feedback from other runners.
This is also something I love to do. It’s great to sit down after a run and plan your next one. Check out Bike Route Toaster or another tool and click a route you want to run. With all these tools out there you can check how long a run will be or how much altitude gain is involved. Planning out runs is a great way to stay motivated and figure out new routes to run that will lead to a more varied training.
Listening to music while you’re running is great to get an additional push and feel even happier on the run. Create a dynamic running playlist with your favorite workout tunes and maintain it regularly. Throw out songs you heard to often and put new ones in that you heard since your last playlist revision.
If you have no idea with what songs you should start your playlist, my running tunes series might contain some for you. Click here for the first post of the series.
Running seems to be a pretty straight forward activity that doesn’t need a lot of knowledge. In my opinion this is not true, there is so much to learn about the sport, its history or what you can do or should avoid in order to stay healthy and improve your running abilities. There are awesome books on running out there and the Internet as well is a great way to learn with Blogs like this one 😉
As you run more and more, chances are you get really passionate about running and you want to know more. Reading regularly around the topic of running is a great way to improve and validate if you are doing things right.
For most people running as a purely physical activity. But if you are ambitious and want to achieve specific running goals it might also be beneficial to do some mental exercises especially if you want to run Ultras. Visualization for example is a powerful technique in which you try to regularly visualize your goal, like running over the finish line of your first marathon with hundreds of cheering fans around. But there are a lot more of exercises you can do for your mental fitness, also to train your concentration which is important for example when running on technical trails.
I hope the list above gave you some input on what else you can do to improve your running next to running itself. What are your habits next to training runs that keep you on track? Write a comment below and let us all know!