You train consistently. You log a solid amount of miles. You get in quality workouts. Yet, you still find yourself not being at the times you would like when it comes to races. Why? Before you start increasing miles or increasing intensity of workouts, first take a look at what you are doing when you are not running.
Here are the top 10 things you should be doing besides running and training.
This is an obvious one in ways, but it can still get overlooked. You should be fueling yourself well throughout the day, especially on hard effort days. Part of ensuring proper fueling is being prepared. Make sure you are stocked up on your favorite bars and have these in your bag or car as a way to get calories right after you train. Make sure your fridge is full of healthy options, so you are grabbing foods that are not only satisfying but allow your body to recover well. It also is important to figure out the meals that work best for your body before workouts. Typically, the simpler the better. Oatmeal with almond butter and bananas is always a great pre-race or pre-workout breakfast.
A strong core is an essential part of running well. Developing a strong core has multiple benefits. Not only does it allow for a better running economy, which will ultimately result in faster times, it also decreases the chance of injury. Especially if you are someone that has issues in your hips and lower back region, core strength is incredibly important. There are many core strength exercises you can do, but nothing beats a good, old-fashioned plank. Instead of just watching shows or scrolling on your phone, do planks as you are doing these more passive activities. Work on creating a regular and consistent habit of doing planks and other core exercises. Along with strengthening your core, it is important to focus on other weak areas. Using bands is a helpful way to strengthen glutes and hamstrings. Everyone is different and has different weaknesses. Identify the parts of your body that are weaker and research exercises that will target and strengthen these areas.
You need to give your body rest. This entails getting the correct hours of sleep at night. It is going to vary from person to person, but around 8 hours is ideal. Rest also includes allowing for days off and allotting time to recover. Giving your body days to fully recover can be the very thing that is actually going to make you better, especially with the right gear. The Zensah Recovery Tights will speed up recovery after long strenuous workouts and will keep your legs feeling revitalized and fresh, by shortening muscle recovery time with its graduated compression.
All the miles can really begin to create severe tightness. It is important to stay on top of this to prevent injury. Similar to strength work, it is important to identify your areas that are more prone to tightness and soreness and target these muscle groups daily by rolling them out and going through a stretch routines. These consistent routines can be the difference of getting to the start line healthy.
If you are dealing with soreness or muscle pain, applying heat before you run or workout can help ease the pain and start to warm-up the muscles. Ice baths after working out is also a great option to help increase blood flow and reduce muscle swelling. While it is not always the most enjoyable or relaxing to hop into a bath that is 50-something degrees Fahrenheit, the benefits are well worth the initial shock to the body. Another great recovery option includes cryotherapy.
An even easier way to help your muscles recover and increase blood flow, is putting on compression socks. It is such a small choice, but after sleeping in them or even just wearing them for a few hours, it is likely that your legs will feel refreshed. You can even go on runs with compression socks. This is just another great option to help with both blood flow and injury prevention.
One of best things to help with running is to do other things besides just run. Supplementing other forms of cardio, alongside running is a great way to still get training in without the pounding and stress of running. There are lots of options when it comes to cross-training, but a few popular ones include spinning or aqua jogging. These are two great ways to get in good training, without the same stress that lots of miles can cause.
Visualization is a super important part of racing and competing well. Visualize yourself competing. Play the course in your head. Imagine people passing you and making the intentional choice to stick with them. Create different scenarios in your head about what could happen in the race and do your best to imagine responding well to them. This mental side of preparation can be just as important as the physical portions.
Drink lots of water. This is something you should be focusing on daily, not just a couple days prior to the race. Proper hydration before and after training is essential. To help make yourself successful in this area, be sure to always have a water bottle on you. Keep water by your bedside, so you can easily drink water if you wake up in the middle of the night. Electrolyte drinks, like coconut water or drinks where electrolytes are added, are other good fueling options post-run. Protein shakes after run using water or a milk base or incorporating into a smoothie is another great option to ensure you are allowing your body ample fuel and recovery.
Changing your running shoes frequently is an important part of injury prevention. Especially if you are logging a lot of miles, it is important to get new shoes regularly. It is suggested to change shoes every 300-500 miles. If you are logging 50 miles per week, it could already be time to change your shoes after a couple months. While this can get expensive, it is worth avoiding injury.
Post written by: Lance Capel
Lance Capel is a Cross-Country Athlete from LMU.
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