When you run for long enough and consistently enough, you get into a bit of a routine. You get used to doing things the same way every time. Sometimes it’s because there’s merit behind that quote that says “exercise first thing in the morning before your body even knows what it is doing:” on days when it’s hard to find the motivation, the repetitive simplicity is comforting.
But along with that, it’s easy to develop some bad habits! It starts out as that classic, “oh I’ll just do it this once,” and then progresses to happening the next time, and then the next time, and pretty soon it’s a regular thing that happens every time. And done enough, it’s your new habit and your new normal.
And while it’s fine for things like running every day, or always hydrating, it’s the things that we pick up and start doing that negatively affect our running performance that we need to be concerned with.
This week, have a look at your running routine and see if you are guilty of any of these 8 habits below. If so, make this week the week that you change!
- Not eating soon enough after your run – You have heard it over and over again, but eating within the first 30 minutes of running (for runs of an hour or more) is critical for setting your body up for proper recovery and ensuring you don’t get sidelined with overuse injuries or overtraining related issues. This is when your body is primed to take in fuel and nutrients. Without giving it this fuel and calories, overtime, it will resort to burning muscle for fuel instead, especially for consistent runs which are significantly longer than an hour.
- Not stretching – You can include foam rolling in here as well, as they both are things that need to be part of your run routine. Foam rolling helps release fascia and muscle fibers that tighten due to repetitive use, while stretching helps stop muscles from getting tight in the first place.
- Running in worn out shoes – It may be about saving some money and making your shoes last longer, it may be because they are your fave and you don’t want to get rid of them, or it may be because you don’t even realize how worn out they are. Whatever the case, worn out runners are not your friend, and sooner or later will leave you injured, or at the very least in a lot of pain at the end of your run. Have a look at your shoes and look for any visible worn down markings, or areas where you can no longer see the tread of the shoe. If this occurs in several spots, a new pair may be in order!
- Holding tension – For me, I hold it in my shoulders and upper back, and when I am running, they will often cave in, or my shoulders will rise up. For others, it may be holding tension by clenching your fists, or by having rigid arms and face. Each part of your body should be relaxed during a run and only with as much tension as necessary to activate the muscles. Beyond this and you are going to have soreness, potentially leading to injury or long term pain. On your next run, scan your body to see where you are holding tension or not relaxed and work on improving it so you can improve your running.
- Ignoring pain – Yes, there will be times, when you have to suck it up and keep running, even though it hurts – during a marathon or a long run for example. But there is a difference between that and running through pain that is stemming from an injury, whereby running more is only going to make it worse. Listen to your body and learn to tell the difference between the two. And if it is an injury, stop running as soon as you notice it and don’t run for a few days. This will give it the most chance of recovery and hopefully won’t have you sidelined for weeks on end.
- Lack of sleep – Sleep is crucial for your running success. Sleep is when your body does a lot of repairing and rebuilding, especially in terms of athletics when it comes to rebuilding muscles. It is also when your body strengthens the immune system and gets a boost on eliminating any potential sickness. As runners, the constant physical stress on our body means our immune system is regularly compromised. Sleep is necessary to make sure our immune system doesn’t fall behind in its work and that we are able to stay healthy and not get sick. It’s worth noting in fact, that your body is at its most vulnerable state for illness in the 2 days following a marathon.
- Using your run as an excuse to eat poorly – If you want to run well, you need to eat well. Running does not give you an excuse to eat whatever you want and neglect your nutrition. Yes, it is a great bonus, that when you run lots, eating bad food doesn’t have as big an affect on you in terms of calories, but know that it will still have an affect on your performance. You will only improve as a runner if you fuel your body and give it the key nutrients and minerals it needs to perform.
- Neglecting recovery – Whether it is a recovery run, or a rest day with no run, rest and recovery is an important part of your run routine and should not be ignored or given a lower priority than running itself. Schedule in your rest days and stick to them, and on recovery days, maintain an easier pace and include things such as yoga and extra stretching to further facilitate recovery.