Running is hard on the body, especially if you are new to running or are training hard for a race. The longer the distance of the goal race, the harder the training demands on your body. In order to stay healthy and prevent overtraining, incorporating self-care is just as important as following your running plan. Here are some key areas on which to focus:
Sleep: Sleep is one of the key ways your body recovers from the demands placed on it by your running program. Everyone is different, but generally you need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to properly recover from your workouts. Going to sleep at the same time every night, staying away from screens (tv, phone, computer) for a few hours before bed and eating dinner several hours before bedtime are all helpful in assuring a restful, restorative sleep.
Eating and nutrition: Eating enough calories and the right nutrients provide the building blocks your body needs to recover from injury. It is important to pay attention to total calories, macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to ensure that you are getting enough of each. There are several phone apps (My Fitness Pal, My Plate) that can help you keep track of your food intake and make sure you are getting adequate nutrition. Alternatively, you can consult a registered dietitian for a meal plan tailored to your specific needs.
Hydration: Adequate fluid intake goes hand-in-hand with proper nutrition in giving your body the tools it needs for training recovery. Make sure you hydrate properly before every run: two hours before the run, drink between 17 and 20 ounces of water. About 10 minutes before you run, drink another 10 to 12 ounces. In addition, try to stay hydrated throughout the day. Everyone’s daily hydration needs are different, so the easiest and best thing to do is pay attention to the color of your urine. Pale and clear means you’re well hydrated. If it’s dark, drink more fluids.
Stress management: Running stresses the body, so it is important to minimize other sources of stress in your life during times of intense training in your running program. It is difficult to avoid stresses in life, but if possible, avoid things like moving, job changes and other disruptions when you are in the most difficult portions of your training and in the weeks leading up to a key race. Since life disruptions are difficult to prevent, try some stress management techniques like meditation or relaxation. There are lots of stress management phone apps available (such as Calm) that can help you learn to relax and meditate. These practices can help improve your recovery from training.
Body work (massage, physical therapy, etc.): One way to increase your work capacity for running is to seek out active recovery services from a sports physical therapist or massage therapist. Modalities such as compression boots (such as Normatec or Rapid Reboot), vibration massage (Legiral or Hypervolt), manual therapy (from a physical therapist or sports chiropractor) and massage therapy (from a licensed massage therapist) are great ways to accelerate your recovery from hard workouts.
Time management: Running takes time out of an already-busy schedule. A big part of self-care is managing your time so that your life isn’t overbooked and you have time for everything important in your life. Keeping a calendar (readily available on your computer and phone) is a great way to manage and evaluate your priorities and activities. Make sure you schedule runs on your calendar and include free time in your schedule. Your calendar will give you a structure from which to turn down activities that overburden you and/or are not high priority.
Cross-training: Running works your muscles in a very specific way. Cross-training helps to balance the muscles of your body. I will cover this topic in depth in my next blog post.
Good self-care will allow you to train harder without breaking down with illness or injury. Try to make time for these areas to ensure training success.
Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness