A serious marathon runner knows that it’s not easy to run long distances without making their health and fitness a priority. However, for those who love long-distance running, getting proper nutrition is only one part of a healthy lifestyle.
If you’re serious about running, you need to make conscious choices every single day and not just before and after a marathon. Here are seven essential tips that will help you improve your running performance without compromising your wellbeing.
Eat a diverse, nutritious diet
To train your body to run long distances, you need to alter your food choices. For instance, you need to stop consuming empty calories and eat foods rich in protein and healthy fats. Learn to eat seven to eight small meals a day rather than three full meals, and ensure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as they’re a rich source of antioxidants. Eat lean meats and chicken and avoid processed foods and artificial energy-boosting beverages.
According to experts, right before a running event you must fuel and energize your body with complex carbohydrates, such as porridge, fruits or a chicken sandwich. Once the marathon is over, you need to replenish the muscle loss with protein-rich foods and lots of water.
Don’t rush into running long distances
If you’re new to running and are currently training for your first long run or marathon, you should know that increasing your mileage too fast can result in debilitating injuries that can take a long time to heal. Running too much early in your training robs your body of the opportunity to get gradually accustomed to your new-found interest.
Also remember that excessive running is not only defined by how many miles you run every day, but also by the intensity and frequency of your runs. Ideally, your aim should be to increase your mileage in a manner that allows your body enough time to adapt and heal itself.
A good plan is to increase your mileage in the first week by one or two miles only and avoiding high-intensity running. Continue for the next two weeks with the same mileage along with a couple of speed workouts. The next week, cut back your running mileage by ten percent to allow your body to prepare for higher mileage in the coming week.
Eat hygienically prepared home-cooked meals
Undoubtedly, eating a nutritious diet is essential to keep up your fitness levels, but it is equally important to ensure that the food you’re eating has been cooked in hygienic conditions and is free of contamination that can give you a stomach infection or intestinal parasites.
If the hygiene of your food has been compromised, you will experience some or all of the symptoms such as bloating, nausea, stomach cramps, intestinal gas, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, and skin rash.
To avoid the problem from escalating into a major health issue, getting rid of parasites in your body is important, whether you do it via natural means such as taking an anti-parasite supplement or diet or through prescription medication.
Take ample rest between runs
If you enjoy running, you must know that overdoing any form of physical activity can deplete your body of critical muscle mass and cause a dip in your energy levels. New runners are often too excited to pay attention to their bodies and end up with injuries caused by a lack of proper rest.
To help your body heal and your muscles recover from the wear and tear of a long-distance run, you need to take a break of at least two days every week, if you run every day. After a marathon, you must give your body at least one full week to recover from the trauma caused by the run.
Remember that without proper recovery, your joints and muscles are at risk of long-term damage. If you must, take up low-intensity activities such as yoga or walking on your rest days.
Invest in good running gear
If running is more than just a passing fad for you, never compromise on the quality of your running shoes as that can result in injury, and remember to replace your shoes every 500 miles.
Wear high-quality absorbent socks and dress according to the weather. Most importantly, test your new running gear a couple of times before a marathon to avoid last-minute surprises.
Work on improving your stride rate
Your stride rate, also known as cadence, refers to the number of steps you take every minute when you’re running. Cadence is used to measure a runner’s form and ability. A low stride rate can slow you down and can also result in injury to your soft tissues from pounding your feet at every step. Increasing your stride rate is therefore essential to improve your overall running speed and performance.
If you slam your feet on the ground when running, you can dramatically reduce the risk of muscle and bone injury by working on your cadence—that is, by improving your number of steps per minute by consciously switching to lighter steps that are easy on your feet. When you’ll take more steps per minute, you’ll have less contact with the ground on each step, thereby reducing the intensity of the pounding.
Drink more fluids
Hydration and running go hand in hand, as keeping your body well hydrated with water and other energizing fluids will replenish the energy loss caused by sweating. Aside from water, you can also use quality fruit juices, coconut water, herbal teas and homemade lemonade to keep yourself hydrated.
When training for a run, avoid alcohol and coffee as much as possible as both of these have a dehydrating effect on the body. In addition, experts advise that taking a glucose drink right after completing your daily run can give your tired muscles a much-need energy boost.
Avoid spending too much on packaged drinks, but they can be used as a convenient fuel source right before a run when you don’t have time to eat something.