Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Quitter’s Circle, a collaboration between the American Lung Association and Pfizer. All thoughts and opinions presented in this post are purely my own.
Running can be beautiful and freeing, a sort of stress relief if you will. Many people even consider it a form of therapy to go out and pound the pavement as it has mental, and physical, health benefits.[i] However, even though being able to run is an amazing gift, there are days that are tough. One of our main goals as runners is to reduce the number of tough days and maximize the number of good days. The truth is that running can be tricky enough on its own without adding in any extra complications, so it is very important to check and make sure you don’t have anything sabotaging your running.
Could These Actions Be Sabotaging Your Running?
1. Staying Up Too Late
Running takes a lot out of your body and you need to give it time to rest, recover and rebuild. Most of this recovery process happens when you are sleeping. However, if you aren’t getting enough sleep at night not only will you be tired, but you also won’t recover properly which will hinder your runs. It is important that you aim for the daily recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night to optimize your running recovery and your energy levels.[ii] If you are in intense training, like for a marathon, even more sleep can be beneficial to recovery time, so go ahead and enjoy that weekend nap.
2. Eating Too Much Junk
Think of your body as a machine – you get out of it what you put in. So, if you are constantly fueling your body with junk then what you get out of it is junk: feeling sluggish, upset stomach and increased risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease.[iii] Trying to have great runs when you feel like this is really tough. On the other hand, when you put good fuel into your body it shows. You feel better overall and you can tell a huge difference in your running.
Running is a largely cardiovascular activity that requires a lot out of your heart and lungs, and is a great way to keep them healthy.[iv] However, what happens if you start running as a smoker? The truth is that you’re setting yourself up for a hard road. Can you do it? Yes! I have an amazing friend who ran a full marathon as a smoker. However, she mentioned again and again that the hardest part for her was not tackling the miles, but feeling like she struggled while running. Years of smoking had made it tough for her lungs to function properly and give her the oxygen she needed while running.
The marathon inspired her to quit and as she went on that journey she noticed that the less she smoked, the better she felt running. If you, or a runner you know, is looking to quit smoking, check out Quitter’s Circle for information on how to quit and how to support those that are trying to quit.
4. Not Warming Up
When you jump right into a run not only can you increase your risk of injury, but you may also be more likely to have a worse run, one where you start out with heavy legs and take a while to get moving.[v] However, by warming up appropriately first, you can reduce that heavy leg feeling and find that you are able to get right into your run. Start off your warm up with a 5-10 minute walk, then do 10 leg swings on each side, 20 butt kicks, 10 squats (really squeeze it at the top to activate those glutes), and finish with 10 walking lunges before going into your run.
5. Forgetting to Stretch
Just like it is so important to warm up to reduce the risk of injury, the same goes for your cool down. At the end of each run it is important to walk for 5-10 minutes to let your body cool down. Then, instead of just going inside and plopping down on the couch or heading out to sit at your desk job, it is essential that you stretch post-run. Be sure to take about 5 minutes to stretch and hold those stretches for long enough that they’ll count (I suggest 20 to 30 seconds each stretch). Your body will thank you for it.
While a glass of wine can be a nice treat, numerous glasses may have a negative impact on your running.[vi] When you go to bed after too much drinking, your body doesn’t rest properly. Then you wake up not only feeling mentally and physically exhausted, but also dehydrated. Put all of these together and it can lead to a pretty terrible run. So be smart and don’t sabotage yourself, either don’t drink at all, or exercise moderation.
[i]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Places: Physical Activity. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/healthtopics/physactivity.htm. Updated February 4, 2016. Accessed October 19, 2016.
[ii]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Much Sleep Do I Need? http://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html. Updated November 12, 2015. Accessed October 19, 2016.
[iii]Odegaard A, Koh W, Yuan J, Gross M, Pereira M. Western-style fast food intake and cardiometabolic risk in an eastern country. Circulation. 2012;126:182-188. Available online: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/126/2/182.long. Accessed October 19, 2016.
[iv]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need? http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm. Updated June 4, 2015. Accessed October 19, 2016.
[v]American Heart Association. Warm Up, Cool Down. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/Warm-Up-Cool-Down_UCM_430168_Article.jsp#.WAeRrvkrK00. Updated September 2014. Accessed October 19, 2016.
[vi]Vella LD, Cameron-Smith D. Alcohol, Athletic Performance and Recovery. Nutrients. 2010;2(8):781-789. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257708/. Accessed October 19, 2016.