Now that the snow’s melted and the days are getting longer, more and more people are lacing up and heading outside. Running is not only a great way to exercise, but it can also be a fun way to explore
the alleys around your apartment your surroundings.
That said, pounding the pavement can be a b*tch on your body. We chatted with Marc Bubbs, a Doctor of Naturopathy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, to find out what we should avoid doing before, during and after a run.
BEFORE YOU RUN
We know it sounds strange, but stretching before you run may actually increase your chances of hurting yourself. This is mainly because your muscles haven’t had an opportunity to warm up, so when you stretch, you’re actually pulling on muscles that are stiff and can easily tear or be strained. Instead, Dr. Bubbs suggests using a golf ball to stimulate myofacial release. “Before you head out on a run, roll out your feet, calf and tibialis with something hard like a golf ball to prevent common running injuries such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and shin splints,” he explains.
At least not immediately before you run. Ideally, you should wait two to three hours after eating a big meal to set out on a run but if you need a little bit of fuel, have a small snack 30 minutes before you head out. Half a protein bar or a spoonful of nut butter is a good option.
Sure, Canadian weather can be temperamental, but keep in mind that you’re going to warm up once you start running. Try and dress as if it’s around 10 to 15 degrees warmer than the thermostat says so that you’re not overheating or forced to peel off layers as you go. This isn’t the ’80s — no need for that workout sweater around your waist anymore.
DURING YOUR RUN
Wait, isn’t running supposed to be a way of blowing off steam after a long day? Sure, but you don’t want to completely check yourself out. Pay attention to the way your foot is striking the ground, how long your stride is and what your posture is like. A lot of people tend to scrunch up their shoulders or clench their fists when they’re first getting used to the strain of running. Take note if you’re doing these things, and then gently tell yourself to loosen up and relax.
Guzzle down tons of water
We’ve all been told how important hydration is but if you chug a bottle of water in the middle of your run, you’re going to feel it. Instead, try to take small sips every couple of kilometres or if you’re really prone to cramping, just swish water around in your mouth to satiate any thirst. Save the big gulps for your post-run rehydration.
Forget about your arms
Legs are obviously a big part of running, but don’t take your other two appendages for granted. According to eight-time marathoner Karen Kwan of Health & Swellness, pumping your arms can both help and hinder your running. “Arm pumping when you’re running uphill or sprinting can help propel your body,” she tells us. “But, on flat ground you want to minimize pumping as it wastes energy.”
Hey, you just put your body through a lot! Give it a chance to cool down by walking around and slowly giving your muscles a chance to relax and normalize. Failure to do this will result in some serious stiffness.
Forget to stretch
OK, now’s the time to stretch. Dr. Bubbs suggests focusing on your glutes, quads, hip flexors and hamstrings. “If you leverage your stretches in these key areas you’ll help improve your overall range of motion,” he explains.
To stretch out your glutes, try a pigeon pose with one leg on a 45-degree angle in front of you and the other straight back. Target your quads and hip flexors with high lunges, and then straighten both legs and gently fold over your front leg to tackle those hamstrings.
Eat a bunch of junk
It’s okay to treat yourself after a run — you’ve worked hard, right? But going on a junk food binge because you feel like you’ve earned it is going to reverse any of the good you did while running. Instead, focus on fuelling your body right. Dr. Bubbs suggests getting the right amount of protein. “A general rule of thumb is to use your palm as a guideline,” he tells us. “For each meal, aim to eat at least one palm-sized portion of protein to keep your body fuelled and strong.”
Got all that? Good. Now make sure you’re physically running right: