Whether you've just started running or have been logging miles for years, chances are you want to squeeze as many runs as you can into an already busy schedule. You'll wake up early, skip a social gathering, and maybe even run through some aches and pains to fit that much needed run into your life. There's a buzz you get from running, and even though you know you can run better, sometimes just running at all feels like enough. But imagine if, before every run, you actually thought about it not as just another run but as a stepping stone towards something bigger? What if you didn't just run fast, but ran smart?
Many people have their own pre-race rituals, from eating a favorite healthy snack to visualizing running through a finish line. But being mindful before each training run could have a significant impact on your goals. When life gets busy, runners can forget that there is a purpose behind each of our workouts: to improve. Every run is an opportunity to be better and more efficient than before, so why not set yourself up for success? Here is a list of five things you should do before every run to ensure that you are making the most of your workout — and maybe even have a little fun while doing it.
I know, I know. You've heard this one before. But chances are, you still aren't consuming enough water. The amount of water you drink before your workout should be directly related to the distance you are running, and it should take into consideration the temperature and humidity of the climate you're in. It's hard to give an exact measurement of how much water you should consume before you run, so pay attention to the elements (weather, etc.), your plan (distance, speed, etc.), and your body before hitting the water.
Ask yourself the following questions: How many times have you peed today? Have you consumed caffeine or alcohol (both of which are diuretics that lead to fluid loss)? How much water have you had in the last couple of hours? How do you feel? Are you thirsty? Whatever you've had, you can probably afford one more glass of water. Remember to hydrate at least 30 min before a run — especially if it's warmer than 60 degrees out. And make a plan to rehydrate if your run is going to last more than 45-minutes. But all this said, you don't want to over-hydrate (why does it all have to be so complicated?!). If you feel bloated and full — like water is splashing around in your belly — you may have overdone it. If that happens, take an extra 30-60 minutes before you head out, or you could run yourself into a bad stomach ache.
2. Play A Pump Up Song
Nothing gets me fired up for a run like a good pre-run pump up jam (one-woman dance party, anyone?). Blast your favorite Spotify playlist while you're getting changed for your run (Beyoncé, please), and during your warmup. Not only can music help elevate your mood and your energy level, but it can actually increase your heart rate, making you even more prepared to conquer some miles.
3. Tune Into Your Body
Think about what muscles feel tight, if anything feels "off," or if there is something you've been meaning to work on while you run. Perhaps you've noticed a nagging ache or pain since your last run. Maybe you're feeling a little more stiff after sitting all day. Gently stretch what's tight, and consider doing a few preparatory exercises to make sure you are engaging the muscles you want to work on most.
One good pre-run ritual is to do some perturbation, a type of exercise that helps train your body to stabilize with increased reaction time against unexpected forces. To do this, lay on your back with knees bent and a medium resistance Theraband (an elastic band that can be tied and stretched in multiple ways to add resistance to any exercise) around both thighs, just above the knees. Using a long stick of some sort (personally, I use an umbrella), repeatedly hit the Theraband in the space between the knees while stabilizing the knees so that they move as little as possible (resist them from falling inward). You might feel silly at first, but this perturbation exercise is a great way to get the gluteus medius muscles — one of the most important stabilizing muscles while running — to fire and "wake up" before heading out. Every other joint in your body will be better off if your glutes are doing their job, so try this little pre-run exercise for 2 sets of 30 seconds before you head out. It may feel awkward at first, but the rest of your body will thank you later.
4) Think About Form
Is there something about your form that you want to fix or change? Have you been working on shortening your stride length, toe striking instead of heel striking, or remembering to keep your shoulders down and back to help open up your chest for easier breathing? Before you go for that run and start reinforcing all your bad habits, think about what you want to change (or just about keeping good form in general), and commit to focusing on that change throughout the run. Bad habits are meant to be broken -- but it takes concentration and a lot of repetition to build new, good habits and to change the way your brain tells your body to move.
5) Set A Workout Goal
Whether it's a new pace, a different route, a faster time, or a longer distance, set your mind to something you've been meaning to accomplish before you go out and work for it. Run with purpose. Setting a reasonable goal before a regular training run will help you get closer to your competition goals -- or maybe just your personal goals. The first step to getting what you want is knowing what you want in the first place.
Now go get it!