How to Have Your Perfect Run

Let’s face it: no matter how hard you try, running isn’t easy. Whether you’re running with a side ache, your muscles are sore, it’s too hot outside,  or your mojo is down, running is hard. You have to be a, quote unquote, “tough cookie” to run distance. Or even shorter distances. Each run has their own challenges. But I have some tried-and-true tips, for both runners but non-runners too (hey, it’s good to know!) to improve your run, and help you actually enjoy it- without the extra pain.

Image result for teenage girl running back view
photo courtesy: Jen Benna

 

 You Are What You Eat

One of the most important tricks to, not just long distance, but any running, is eating right. This is a must-do if you don’t want to get side aches, and feel lighter and faster. Emily and I have a cross country coach that always says (before meets), “If you eat pizza before you race, you’ll be eating it again afterwards.” This always struck me as a really hideous thought, but it’s all truth: and he knows he’s been coaching cross country for 15 years, and was a P.E. teacher before that, so he knows his stuff. Food is one of the biggest components in the quality of your run. Here’s some food to avoid before any type of run:

  • eggs
  • milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream- dairy of any kind
  • anything greasy or deep-fried
  • whole-grain foods, vegetables, legumes, and fruits that are high in fiber. I know this sounds crazy, but although these foods are great healthy choices for runners more than one day before your race, the night before or the day of the race are bad times to eat these types of food. They cause digestive issues, which leads to a painful run.
  • high-fat meats- I’m so sorry, meat-loving runners. No bacon, steak, pork, hamburgers, or other red meat for you.
  • too much water immediately before you run (although water isn’t a food, it acts like one-it weighs you down and gives you side aches)
  • caffeine of any kind (I know, I know. I feel your pain.)

Whatever you do, try to avoid these foods- after your run or race, you’ll be more than happy you did.

Image result for fruits and vegetables and grains
Eat your veggies!                                                                                        photo courtesy: http://www.slideshare.net

 

Eating Right

So now you know what not to eat. I know, it’s hard, but it will help. Really. But what DO you eat before your run then? Here’s a list for that:

  • fresh greens, like arugula or spinach- eat your veggies!
  • salmon, for a protein boost
  • pasta, pasta, and more pasta!
  • chicken, to help build up muscles
  • berries (fresh or frozen) for antioxidants
  • any kind of beans
  • dark chocolate- believe it or not, it boosts you heart health and your antioxidants. Plus, you as a runner need at least one indulgence, right?

Eat these before race day, and you’ll be good to go. These winning foods (haha, see what I did there?) will give you what you need to knock ’em dead. Well, not seriously. But, you know, beat e’m all.

Beating the Pain

Sore muscles, pain, and side aches, oh my! Pain just comes with running. Like salt and pepper, or peanut butter and jelly. It’s impossible to win over it entirely, but I have some tips that will definitely help.

Side aches: breath out as much as you can every other time your left foot hits the ground. If you’ve been doing it correctly, it should, in 2 or 3 minutes, take away the side ache. This has helped me on so many runs, and has never failed.

Breathing: always watch your breathing while you run. If it starts getting shallow and fast, you can get side aches but also not be able to keep your pace up with less oxygen going to your muscles. This is always hard for me, since as my heart rate goes up I start breathing faster. But this is a really important component to a good run.

Sore muscles: if you’re running two days in a row or more, a “leg drain” is a good way to help sore muscles- for 10 minutes, put your head on the floor and your feet on the wall, so you’re 90º. It will probably feel awkward, but you’ll be thankful for it the next day. I like to read a book or check my phone while I do it.

Image result for runner in pain
photo courtesy: womensrunning.competitor.com

 

Warm-ups: ALWAYS do a warm up before you run. Whether that means stretching or jogging for a couple of minutes, it prepares you for the run and you will be less likely to pull something- that’s never fun.

Keep it Positive

I myself start either becoming really happy or really pessimistic when I run. A major part of your run is your attitude. I’ve always done better when I focus on the positives, or am running with friends. IT sounds cheesy, but it really does help. I’ve gone longer, farther, and faster when I’m happy.

Challenge Yourself

The only way to do better is to challenge yourself. The more you push, the better you’ll do. It really helps to try to keep up with people that are faster than you, but not so much faster that you lose all your energy at the beginning of the run. I just try to trail behind them during practices so I have stamina worked up for the meet. And, if you’re feeling good enough, pass them! And if you’re running with your friend and pass or get way ahead them, feel no guilt (haha, that sounds harsh). But running is a competitive sport. If you’re serious about it, your success is up to you. You can totally do this.

If you want an as-close-to-perfect-run-as-possible, take these tips to heart. They really do help. Running is hard, but come on, you’ve got this. Especially with extra running hacks up your sleeve. Just keep running!

Your fellow runner,

◊Ivy◊

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