Last week, we looked at Tips 1 through 7 to improve your running, the undisputed King of cardio. We ended with wearing the right shoes. This week, let’s focus on Tips 8 through 15.
8. Arms: Try not to clench your fists. If you run with your fists up by your chest, considering lowering them so your fingers graze your waistline instead. This will save energy over the course of your run. Resist swinging your arms side to side. Think about gently punching your elbows straight back behind you as you stride forward.
9. Posture: Remember to draw your shoulders down and keep your ribs down so your back stays neutral. Keep those elbows punching back and don’t slam your feet. Imagine there’s a string tied to your sternum that pulls you forward as you run. In this position, you’ll avoid rounding your shoulders and hunching over, which makes it much harder to breathe properly and puts extra stress on the neck.
10. Pain: Frankly, you should not run through pain. Running when you are tired, challenged or uncomfortable is OK. This is how you will push yourself and improve. But pain is never ok. If you have a cramp, stop and work it out. If you feel pain in your ankles, knees, hips, back or anywhere else stop, walk it out or stretch. If that pain persists, seek professional help from a trainer, doctor or physical therapist. This should be about making you stronger and building your body up, not injuring it.
11. Mindset: Are you worrying about work or thinking about all the things you have to do tonight when you get home? Try to be present with your body and your surroundings. Emptying your mind as you run will help you hit an efficient stride and will make the experience more enjoyable. All that other stuff can wait. Right now it’s about you and your body.
12. What to Eat Before: Some people prefer to run fasted, meaning on an empty stomach and some folks need to have something in their systems to keep from bonking. Figure out what’s best for you and keep consistent. If you’re training for a race you don’t want to try anything new on event day. If you’re unsure, try having a small snack 30-45 minutes before your training runs like a handful of almonds, an apple with nut butter or a healthy protein bar (I like Rx bars). Keep it simple and make sure it has some protein and healthy carbs.
13. What to Eat After: After your run, try to have a snack or healthy meal within an hour of finishing. Definitely make sure it has 20-30 grams of protein and some healthy carbs to keep you from losing muscle and to replenish your glycogen stores for your next run.
14. Massage: Runners often make the mistake of waiting to get a massage until after a big running event like a half marathon. My best tip is to get a massage seven to 10 days before your race. Especially in training programs that involve a mileage taper, the last one to three weeks before an event are about making sure you’re fresh for the big day. Massage therapy speeds athletic recovery and can address some aches and pains that may be problematic on race day, when you want to be as relaxed and well-rested as possible. Massage therapy is great after an event too, but in terms of athletic performance, it’s more important before.
15. Sleep: Being well-rested not only improves performance, but it will also reduce inflammation and joint pain and speed up healing times when you’re injured (conversely, lack of sleep prolongs healing). It only takes a week or two of poor sleep to spark these negative side effects—or for increased sleep to spark positive results. Plus, sleep impacts both our bodies and our minds. Motivation is directly tied to how rested we feel, so make sleep a priority and you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll stick to your training program.
Jonathan Jordan is a personal trainer, nutrition coach and corporate wellness consultant in San Francisco. Check out his blog JJ Fit 24/7.