When it comes to running, people tend to fall into one of two categories: either they love it or hate it. Even those who enjoy it tend to have a love-hate relationship with running. It’s one of those exercises that you may hate doing, but love the way it makes you feel.
So, despite all the health perks it offers, like improving good cholesterol, supporting weight loss and bone health, as well as balance and coordination, what is it about running that makes it so hard to love?
Well—it’s complicated. Unfortunately, many people fall into the trap of thinking it’s as simple as just lacing up your shoes and hitting the pavement. But there’s a lot more that goes into it. Everything from the foods you eat and the clothes you wear to the amount of sleep you get impacts your running experience.
So, whether you’re a seasoned runner or a first-timer, Becky Thompson, PT, avid runner and running specialist with GMC’s Sports Medicine program, shares her personal practices.
Here are Becky’s Running Essentials:
1. Run whenever you can. There have been numerous studies on running in the morning vs. running in the evening and which time offers the most benefits. The problem is, most of us lead busy lives and may not have a lot of flexibility in our schedules. So, with that being said, the best time of day to run is whenever you will actually go. The bottom line is that it may never feel convenient, so just get it done!
2. Warm up the right way. A good warm-up consists of 3 to 5 minutes of dynamic movements such as walking lunges, butt kicks, high knees, cariocas or skipping. While static stretching used to be a popular form of warming-up, recent studies have shown it may slow you down and even increase the likelihood of injury. Save static stretching for after your run, as part of a cool-down.
3. Be slow and steady. When adding mileage and intensity that is. This is key to preventing injuries. Use the 10% rule, especially if you are fairly new to running. This means increasing mileage by a maximum of 10% each week. Don’t forget that strength training (especially the glutes and hips), mobility work (foam rolling, yoga, etc.) and replacing worn-out shoes are also important for injury prevention.
4. Diversify your workouts. “I am a huge advocate of cross training,” notes Becky. “I get bored easily with the same workouts, so I like to tackle different challenges to keep my mind and body sharp.” Running is hard on the body, so using an elliptical, taking a spin class, swimming or doing yoga are great ways to challenge your body in low-impact ways.
5. Get quality rest. The more you run the more sleep you need. It’s during the restorative hours of sleep that your body repairs itself. Running is taxing on the muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons. Therefore, the more miles you put on your body, the more you need to ensure you’re getting quality sleep. Also, older runners need more sleep and recovery time because, unfortunately, our ability to recover slows down as we age.
6. Use premium-grade fuel. Think of what you eat as fuel for your engine. Because running is a great way to burn calories, you need to make sure you’re refilling your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs to continue running smoothly. Whole, unprocessed foods, like lean meats, fruits and vegetables should make up the bulk of your diet. Save unleaded-grade snacks, like those that are processed and filled with refined sugars for treats only.
7. Refuel at the right times. To help maintain your energy, make sure to eat something 1 to 2 hours before running. Ideally, this would be a snack with plenty of easily-digestible carbs, such as an English muffin with jam and a piece of fruit. Too much fat or fiber may spell GI trouble on the road because they take a long time to digest. Following a tough or long run be sure to refuel with a snack. A 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein is ideal, but don’t sweat the math. A snack with a good mix of carbs and protein, like trail mix with nuts and raisins or half of a bagel with peanut butter will work.
8. Get routine maintenance. With impressive benefits, like a lower risk of developing cancer and Alzheimer’s, while also improving mental health and heart health, there’s simply no denying that running is a great way to get in and stay in shape. But that doesn’t mean that it’s without drawbacks.
Like any type of exercise, running can be hard on your body and that’s why it’s important to have care you can count on. To ensure that every runner receives the care they need, GMC’s Running Clinicgives each patient a personalized assessment and training plan to keep you running longer and stronger.