Whether you are a beginner or a veteran, all runners need to be mindful of how they exercise. Running is not merely taking off down a trail and moving quickly. There are many intricacies to the art of running both efficiently and safely. Below are three important tips that all runners should follow.
Invest in the Right Gear
The first thing that all runners should do is invest in the right gear. Shoes are perhaps the most important piece of equipment for a runner. Many athletics stores can analyze your feet and determine the best runner’s shoe for you. Runner’s shoes come in many shapes and sizes, so seeing a professional is ideal. Also, consider if you want to purchase shoes that are water resistant or not. Runners will often buy multiple pairs of shoes in order to address different exercise goals, but beginners can start out with a single pair.
Runners should also invest in the proper athletic clothing. Simply wearing old t-shirts on a run is not sufficient. Cotton is not a very breathable fabric. It traps moisture. Wearing a cotton shirt while working out will trap your sweat, which will make your muscles cold and uncomfortable. Invest in clothes made with polyester blends, so moisture is not trapped by the fabric and so that your muscles can breathe. Polyester wicks – or, pushes up – moisture to the surface of the fabric. Compression sleeves are another piece of athletic wear to consider purchasing. These skin-tight legwarmers can help support your muscles and prevent swelling. The gear that you invest in will depend on which parts of your body feel most fatigued, but compression sleeves can be beneficial to all runners.
An often overlooked piece of runner’s equipment is sunscreen. Some sun on bare skin is healthy and safe. However, if you are planning a run that will last more than twenty minutes – or a run that takes place during a high-UV day – then you should apply sunscreen on all exposed skin. Long-term, unprotected sun exposure can be dangerous, especially when you are working out and you are actively losing hydration. Remember that UV rays cause sunburn. Even if the weather is overcast and the sun is not visible, UV rays can remain present. Overcast weather can sometimes amplify UV rays, which is why wearing sunscreen at all times is so important.
Runners should also invest in some reflective clothing. If you are running at night or in low visibility conditions – such as fog or heavy rain – a reflective vest or a reflective belt will alert others to your presence. You need to be seen by other pedestrians, bikers, and cars. Some sneakers also come with reflective tape on the heel; however, be sure to have reflective gear on your torso as well, in order to maximize visibility. Making sure that you’re prepared for a run will keep your body safe. New runners do not need to invest in all of these things at once, but ultimately runners should invest in good gear.
Take Care of Your Body
Runners should take steps to care for their body. Runners should maintain a balanced diet. This does not mean they are disbarred from eating greasy foods or sweets on occasion. However, plan your meals around when you go for a run. For example, eating a large, carb-laden meal directly before a run will make your stomach unsettled. Heavy food is hard to digest. Save the heavy meals for the night before a run. You will have plenty of time to digest everything without feeling discomfort later on in your run. Furthermore, runners know that working out is not an excuse to overeat. While carbohydrates are important, runners should balance their diet with plenty of vegetables and proteins.
Good runners also stay hydrated throughout the day. It is not enough to hydrate only during or after a run. Consistently drinking water or tea throughout the day will keep your body replenished. This does not mean that the answer to this problem is to drink sports drinks all day. Gatorade can be helpful to your body during or after a run; however, the contents of the beverage will not benefit you if you are sitting at a desk for most of your day. Additionally, runners should be mindful of their caffeine intake. Caffeine can elevate your heartrate, so drinking multiple cups before a run is potentially dangerous. However is there not a need to completely cut coffee from a runner’s diet. Runners can safely drink a cup well after their run is complete. Ultimately, though, water is the best hydrator.
Additionally, runners should get plenty of sleep. The body repairs itself while you are asleep. Not getting enough sleep, however, will prevent your body from being able to fully repair itself. Runners who do not sleep enough may hurt their bodies in the long run. Be sure to maintain a regular sleep schedule in order to best care for your body at night. Running can be a great exercise for the body, but the effort is wasted if you do not care for your body. Runners should always be mindful of how they care for their body. Runners who take care of their body will see more gains from their workouts.
Practice Good Exercise Habits
It can be unhealthy to exercise if you are practicing bad habits. One of the most important things runners should do is to maintain good posture throughout their run. While physically moving can be beneficial to the body, slouching or clenching the torso will be counterproductive to your workout. Good posture includes a few steps: first, the torso should be centered above the hips; arms should not swing too much; the head should be centered at the top of the spine, looking straight ahead; and, the entire body should be relaxed. Good posture will lead to a more productive workout. Bad posture will only cause injury.
Runners should practice other forms of exercise. While running itself is a great exercise, it is an exercise that can benefit from other forms of exercise being paired with it. Core exercises are vital to maintaining a good posture, which in turn is necessary for a healthy run. Back and ab exercises will strengthen the core. Balance your workout schedule to include core exercises a few times a week. Some core workout days can be harder, while others can be easier. Pace your body during all forms of workout, in order to give your body time to repair itself.
Yoga is another form of exercise to pair with running. Yoga is great for stretching the body. Sitting for most of the day can cause parts of the body – particularly the hamstrings – to tighten, so yoga is essential for keeping the body lithe and loose. Yoga will also help stretch out the back and abs, which can help loosen up the body after a core exercise workout routine. Even if only practiced once a week, yoga is a good auxiliary form of exercise.
Additionally, runners should know when and how to stretch. Static stretching – holding a muscle in a particular stretch for a short period of time – can be bad for your body if done before a run. Muscles do not warm up during static stretching. Instead, do dynamic stretches such as squats or lunges. Static stretching after a run is okay, but be sure to include some dynamic stretches in your post-workout routine. Runners should also invest in foam rollers. A foam rollers is an affordable, easy-to-store cylinder that runners use to roll out their muscles. Exercises with a foam roller are dynamic and they can help stretch the body and improve flexibility. Foam roller exercises also can pair with both core exercises and yoga.
Finally, it is imperative that runners focus on building distance rather than increasing their speed. Setting mileage goals is healthier than setting speed goals. This is because it is necessary to pace yourself. By setting speed goals, you can set yourself up for injury, since any slow-down during the run will appear to be a failure to meet the speed goal. Setting distance goals allows you to run at your own pace. Sometimes walking in the middle of a run is necessary. Taking breaks is okay. Good runners know to listen to their body. If your body begins to hurt during a run, slow down and assess how your body feels. There is no shame in ending a run early. Taking care of your body is key to a successful workout.
Runners should always push to better themselves, but this is not possible if they are unprepared for a run. They need to invest in good equipment in order to prevent injury. Runners should also take care of their body, since bad habits can lead to serious injury. Practicing good habits will lead to healthy, prosperous runs. Beginners do not need to follow all of these steps immediately, but good runners should work towards all of these goals over time.