Following a training plan around a busy life and working can be difficult. The schedule will progressively demand you to run more as the weeks go on and you may start to feel like your legs are like concrete. But it might not be because of something you did, more likely to be a result of something you didn’t do in-between run sessions…
- Have you fuelled right(and at the right time)?
- Are you hydrated?
- Do you ease into it?
- How are your running shoes looking?
- Do you cool down?
- How do you relax?
- Have you heard about leg drains?
- It’s time to refuel… again.
Got a run planned today? You will want a nice balanced meal 2-3 hours before you head out.
Shovelling a meal in right before you run will not have time to digest and contribute to your energy levels – some blood that COULD be used for your running muscles instead goes to your digestive organs to help digest. So straight off the bat, you could feel a little sluggish and slower than normal.
If you do have to eat something before you head out, make sure it is something the body can easily absorb such as a small banana, peanut butter or some spoonfuls of honey.
A glass of water half hour before heading out will help prevent dehydration on the run. However, if you are heading out for longer than a 10k route, consider taking a hydration pack. Keeping yourself hydrated on the run will help prevent your legs from cramping, will improve recovery time and help you handle the hotter climate. You also need to do this when it’s cold out! Hydration helps balance your body temperature, vital in extreme conditions where ever you live or run.
If you don’t like water, some squash or diluted orange juice with a pinch of salt is a great option (and a cheaper, homemade version of a sports drink!)
Warmups are as individual as each runner. So how do you ease into your runs? Do you start with a very relaxed easy stride and build up to your desired pace?
Bombing off at a fast pace at the start of your run will only end in running out of steam and sore legs soon afterwards. If you find this keeps happening to you, add 5 minutes of light jogging, even fast walking to help wake up your muscles. I often ‘sacrifice’ the first mile to a warm-up, to get a feel for how my body will cope today because, by the end of that initial mile, I will know if I can up the pace, or not.
Even stretching before a run might not suit some competitors, so instead, how about shaking out your legs, ankles, shoulders and arms? Moving your neck side to side, little tip-toe hops and an all-over body shake is a valued option.
The only contact between you and the floor is your shoes, and for runners, finding the right shoes and keeping them in top form is a constant headache for competitive runners. The wrong fit, cushioning, and rocker can impact your run more than you think.
So, how are your shoes? How many miles have they endured so far? Keep track of your shoe mileage, as around 300 miles the mid-soles can become too compressed and you start to lose shape in the shoe – your legs will most definitely notice.
Okay, you might be able to talk me out of a warm-up, but a cool down is a must. It’s said that the recovery and preparation for your next run starts at the cooldown of your previous run. Taking 3-5 minutes to slow the jog down, even walk it out and stretch – the mistake I see so many runners make is jumping straight back into the car ‘I’ll stretch in the shower’ they say. But why not do both? It really only takes a minute after you run and your legs will seriously Thank you for it.
Performing a cooldown and stretching period allows the lactic acid (the byproduct created by your muscles) to be flushed out into your bloodstream and eliminated from your body.
I don’t care what you watch on TV or if you prefer listening to the radio but do you soak after a tough run or workout session? A hot bath works better than a hot shower when it comes to relaxing your muscles (think about it, you’re standing up for starters).
Perhaps you take the time to foam roll on an evening to relax after a tough session? Or some morning yoga to start the day on the right foot? Think about how you spend your downtime – if you have any? Relaxing mind and body works wonders for your recovery, your legs won’t feel quite so heavy either.
A yoga pose called ‘Waterfall pose’ is when you lay on your back, legs extended vertically up the wall like an ‘L’ shape. Relax and feel the blood drain from your legs (that’s an odd sentence to write). By doing this you use gravity to pull the blood away from your legs so when you stand up, fresh clean blood replaces it. You can do this after stretching, bath or foam rolling – you’ll feel like you have a whole new pair of legs.
Remember what I said? The preparation for your next run starts in the cooldown of your previous one? Well, you have to think about refuelling your energy stores 30-60 minutes after a session. It should be balanced with some protein to help restore muscles and carbohydrates to replenish energy levels, with the obvious fruit/veg for all their mineral goodness.
That goes for rehydration too! Get an idea of how much you need to drink to avoid dehydration. This can be done by weighing yourself before and after a run (sweat loss) or urine test to see how clear (and hydrated) your urine is. For regular runners though, it will never hurt to keep a water bottle nearby and sip it all day long.