Six tips for the running enthusiast
Running is my favorite way to exercise, especially in the summer. After completing my first half-marathon, I learned that running can also take a toll on your body once you start increasing your mile-time and distance. To learn more about things every runner should know, I spoke with Dr. Pierre d’Hemecourt at Children’s Hospital’s Running Clinic. Here are a few take-aways from our conversation that could be re-affirming- and possibly enlightening- for the running enthusiast:
Fueling up- The carbs that help: Holding off on breakfast till after your morning run isn’t the best idea. “You want to get some carbs in [before] the run, preferably 2-3 hours prior,” says Dr. d’Hemecourt. Simple carbs, like pancakes or cereal, will give you the most available fuel. He also recommends re-fueling on carbs with protein after every run. And yes, chocolate milk counts! Dr. d’Hemecourt says this is a great way to restore your energy reserves after your run because it gets “glycogen back in [the] muscles.”
Hydration- Don’t overdo it: When I was preparing for my race, I remembered reading about avoiding over-hydration. I didn’t really think it was possible, but apparently it happens a lot, especially during temperature extremes. Common symptoms include headache, feeling confused and bloating. “People take in too much fluid and are not getting rid of it,” says Dr. d’Hemecourt. To determine if you’re drinking too much water, you should weigh yourself, without clothes, before and after running to see if there’s a difference in weight. If you’re running between one and one and one half hours, you should expect to lose 2% of your body weight, according to Dr. d’Hemecourt. If your weight is the same (or greater) after your run, then you’re drinking too much water.
Proper footware and over-striding- The case for minimalist shoes: When Vibrams and other “minimalist” sport shoes came out on the market, there was a lot of talk on whether or not running in your traditional sneaker was the smart thing to do. Personally, I can’t imagine running with something separating my toes- but to each his/her own. “Traditionally, the problem with [running] shoes is that there’s too big of a heel,” says Dr. d’Hemecourt. “People naturally allow their foot to hit heel [first], which leads to over-striding.” This can send “impact forces” up the leg that may be correlated with shin splints, stress fractures and IT band symptoms. Currently, there’s more research being done to determine how your stride could lead to these injuries.
To avoid over-striding, you could also try running with a shorter stride, with emphasis on landing with your mid-foot or forefoot, according to Dr. d’Hemecourt. Don’t worry- shorter strides won’t necessarily mean that you’re running slower, he says.
For those of you interested in signing on to the minimalist camp, be sure to slowly transition into using those shoes. Jumping into them too fast could lead to forefoot stress fractures or Achilles strain.
Some other key pointers:
On building up speed- Pace yourself: Stress fractures happen when runners try to run too fast or for too long, too soon. Running up to 10% more during each week of training is the “general rule” to safely build up your running activity, according to Dr. d’Hemecourt.
Mixing up your routine- Cross-training: “As long as you keep your fitness up with cardiovascular training, [you won't] be far behind” says Dr. d’Hemecourt of taking a break from running during training. Trail running, swimming, cycling and yoga are other cross-training and strengthening options to stay on track.
Running in the winter- Layer up!: In addition to gloves/mittens and tights, there are three key layers you’ll need when suiting up for a jog in the colder temps:
1) A polypropylene/Coolmax layer that wicks away sweat followed by;
2) An insulating layer to keep you warm, such as a fleece, topped off by;
3) An outer shell that will protect you from wind and water.
Hopefully you may have learned something new from these key pointers, while others may just be confirming things you already do to prepare for a run. My favorite tip was about heel-striking. After our conversation, I’ve kept that in mind while running and have found that I’m generally less sore after my runs. Getting confirmation that drinking chocolate milk after a long run is ok wasn’t too bad, either.