There are many things I didn’t know before I became a runner… Not to mention the things I am still learning and the things I knew but simply took for granted. I’m thinking back to a time before running on a regular basis and competing in races. I use to see other people up first thing in the morning or late into the evening running and my first thought would be, “they are crazy”. Once I started running I changed my mind about the crazy part. Then my new thought became, once I build up my endurance, I will be able to just get out there anytime and run for miles and miles like the wind. Needless to say, both of my thought processes involved faulty thinking. Now, after doing this running thing for a little while I have some new insights. I have a bit of wisdom I would like to share with anyone considering taking up running as part of their fitness regimen. There are 5 things that have been paramount in contributing to my success in keeping running as part of my exercise routine.
- Eating the right breakfast is critical to ensuring a great run. We already know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it gives your body the boost you need to start the day and get moving. It is important to have the right breakfast because exercise requires you to use so much fuel and just like a car if you don’t fuel up you aren’t going very far. Although there are many choices we can make for breakfast all things are not proper to consume before a run. It took me a while, but I learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t. One of my favorite breakfast meals is oatmeal with fresh fruit. However, I quickly learned that high fiber foods are great for my diet but do not work before a run. It’s difficult to make it through a run if you breakfast is literally running through you. There’s nothing like a bacon and egg sandwich with a side of hash-browns but after a breakfast like that, I’m too lethargic and bloated to do much of anything. So the right breakfast for me usually consists of two items, one serving of carbs (toast or bagel) a protein (bacon or sausage) and water.
- Foot care is crucial if you plan to have longevity. I know that having the right shoe is important and thought that was my only concern. Let me tell you just how wrong I was for thinking shoes are everything. In addition to offering variety, there is a reason sneaker stores have shoes organized by type of activity; walking, running, cross train, etc. Always make sure to get help when purchasing sneakers. Buy shoes based on your primary activity. If your feet are not comfortable you will not make it very far. Now let me tell you about something I took for granted but learned along the way. Blisters can occur on your feet while running and they are painful. Although there is no way to completely prevent them from occurring, there are a couple of things you can do. Always wear running socks, which means you do not want to wear the traditional 100% cotton socks. Run from cotton. Instead, choose socks made from synthetic materials that reduce friction and moisture which are two of the culprits responsible for blisters.
- Stretching is very simple to do but often skipped. I use to think that anything that simple wasn’t important otherwise everyone would be doing it. Well, I was wrong about that too. Stretching allows your muscles to wake up and gets your blood flowing. I equate not stretching to getting in a cold car after it has been sitting all night and immediately turning the heat on high then wondering why it isn’t getting warm. The engine hasn’t had proper time to warm up and do its job. The same thing happens to your body when you don’t stretch. Skipping stretching may add stress to joints and muscles causing injury. I have attempted to run without stretching and each time I experienced problems with my legs or joints. When I stretch before running I have fewer problems. Stretching before and after running are equally important. Stretching allows the body time to cool down and return your heart rate to resting.
- Sleeping an 8 hour day is something I thought was overrated. I am a night owl by nature and have never been interested in napping. As a preschooler, I would often run from my great-grandmother because if you ever sat in her lap she would surely rock you to sleep. In kindergarten, I only took a nap one time. As it turns out my mother stopped by to pick me up early but since I was asleep she decided to let me stay at school. I vowed right then, I would never miss an opportunity to do something fun because I was sleeping. Forty years later, I still don’t like naps! Even though I knew getting up for early morning runs would work best for my schedule I didn’t think about how it would impact my evening habits. Initially, I tried to keep my routine of going to bed about 11:30 or after and wake up at 6am for Saturday morning runs. I would barely make it on time and felt groggy during and after my runs and for much of the day. This was crazy, so I broke down and started getting at least 7 hours of sleep, anything less than that I am having a bad run.
- Running with friends is never a need, but having a buddy along can be a good thing. There are times when the only companion needed are DMX and Tupac on your playlist or the sounds of the birds chirping as you go running along. Then there are those times that having someone along just makes getting through that group class you were too embarrassed to try alone a little more bearable. It will also make that 5-mile morning run that you were thinking about skipping out on not so daunting after all. Sometimes there is no substitute for having a friend to commiserate with after a tough workout. Nothing is better than having a friend to share in the joy of what it took to make it across the finish line in a race that seemed impossible.
There it is, a snapshot of just a few of the things that I took for granted. I know this is just the beginning of what are many more lessons on the joys of running. Stay tuned as I share more new-found wisdom. What have you learned on your journey to better health?