Us runners tend to spend most of our time focused on the actual running activity itself, rather than what we do directly before each run.
It may surprise you to know that what you do before the run is just as important as the run itself. Having good pre-run habits can help your session go smoother, feel more enjoyable, reduce the risk of injury and increase your overall enjoyment.
Therefore, it’s important to know the things you should never do before a run so you can avoid them.
In this article, we’ll look at 9 things you should never do before a run. I hope you find it useful
1.Eating too much or not eating enough before a run
A common problem for runners (myself included, at one point) is knowing how much food they should consume directly before a run.
Too much food, or the wrong kinds of food, can leave you with stomach pain, nausea, cramps and feeling lethargic. The worst-case scenario would be to throw up mid-run, on the side of the road. You might think it never happens, but I have seen this on four separate occasions now and it is not pretty. Believe me.
On the other side of the spectrum is not eating enough before you run. Runners often venture into a training session with no fuel inside them only to feel weak, sick and sometimes dizzy. Not only does this mean performance will be poor but you also risk doing harm to yourself i.e. fainting due to a lack of energy. Not ideal. You wouldn’t drive a car without any fuel in it, so don’t try to run without any fuel.
Everyone is different so experiment with how much food you need to keep you going whilst training.
I’d recommend you at a light pre-running snack like a banana, porridge, an energy bar and peanut butter on wholegrain toast are all great options of pre-run snacks which should keep you fuelled up.
The longer the run, the more amount of food you will need to keep you going. However, make sure you have suitable time for digestion before lacing up.
For more information on foods for runners, check out the following two articles:
2. Drinking too much or not drinking enough water
A common mistake runner often make is to either drink too much or not enough before their workout.
The human body is over 50% water and needs water to not only perform the running motion, but also to carry out basic bodily process like respiration and digestion to keep you alive. When we exercise, we lose a lot of water through sweat and the body working extra hard to maintain performance. Therefore, it’s important that we stay optimally hydrated before, during and after a run.
If you don’t drink enough water then you risk encountering issues like headaches, dizziness, confusion, hunger, dry mouth and even risk fainting. You don’t want to encounter any of these on your run.
On the other hand, there are loads of issues associated with overhydration. The main two you might think of is having lots of fluids uncomfortably sloshing around in your stomach and the need to constantly go to the toilet. However, other issues include vomiting, cramps, nausea, dizziness and in extreme cases, death. Ouch.
Like pre-running food, everybody is different so will have a different amount of fluid they require to hydrate them and maintain running performance. Experiment and try drinking different amounts before you run and you will eventually get the hang of it.
A good indicator directly before a run as to how much you need to drink is the colour of your urine. If it is dark this is a symptom of dehydration, so drink more than usual. If it is crystal clear then you are hydrated and may be overhydrated, so drink slightly less than usual.
As a rule of thumb, I drink a tall glass of water 5-10 minutes before each run I do. If I am doing a long run, then I will bring cash with me and purchase a sports drink on route to ensure my fluids stay topped up.
Either way, be aware that you should never be too hydrated or dehydrated before a run and you will be fine.
3. Forget to go to the toilet
We runners are all human beings and need to answer nature whenever it calls. Not going to the toilet straight before a run is not a good idea because it can practically ruin your running experience.
Imagine you are on a 6-mile run and you suddenly realise you need to go to the toilet. Number 2. It will be difficult for you to think about anything else and you probably won’t enjoy the run until you manage to find a toilet. Not good and something many runners have to find out the hard way!
Go to the toilet straight before each run you do. Even if you don’t particularly need to go, it’s always best to be safe than sorry.
Running can make you want to go the toilet so it’s best to try and go at home before this happens whilst working out.
4. Doing a difficult run in new shoes
Something you should never to is attempt a difficult run-in brand-new running shoe. This is something I have been stupid enough to do myself.
I had just got brand new Asics Gel-Phoenix 9 shoes the day before a marathon and decided to use the marathon as the ‘perfect’ way to break in the shoes. What a mistake that was. By mile 8 they started rubbing and I developed blisters and experienced foot arch pain. Not fun.
Instead of wearing brand new running shoes on a hard run, take time to break them in beforehand. Wear the shoes around the house, to the shops, a work and just for general leisure purposes.
Once you are comfortable the shoe has broken in and moulded to your foot shape, that’s the time to wear them for their first run.
You don’t have to stop running during this breaking in process. Wear your old shoes which have already proven to be comfortable until your new shoes are going to work.
5. Static stretches
Static stretching focuses on increasing flexibility rather than warming up the muscles with oxygen and encouraging blood flow. Not good for when you’re about to go for a run.
Research shows that static stretching is not the best way to effectively warm up before a run and not only risks a performance reduction, but also injury.
Perform dynamic stretches instead. Dynamic stretches are active stretches which eliminate force and its adverse effects from the stretching process. Active stretching simulates and prepares muscles for the running activity, getting blood comfortably flowing and the body warmed up.
Examples of great pre-run dynamic stretches include lunges, inchworms, arm swings, high knees, leg swings and butt-kicks.
These are just a few ideas, there are tonnes of different dynamic stretches you could do before you run. The most important thing is that you do dynamic stretches rather than static stretches.
6. Decide to run through injury or illness instead of resting
Failing to listen to your body and running through injury or illness can be a recipe for disaster.
If you are feeling ill or have a painful leg from running injury, chances are your body is trying to tell you to rest and take it easy.
Running through pain usually makes matters worse and can be extremely dangerous. If you run with a pulled hamstring, ignoring the obvious pain you are feeling, you risk doing some serious damage which could leave you more injured and unable to run for longer. Not good.
Listen to your body and act accordingly. If you have a bad flu which is leaving you unable to stand without feeling tired and light-headed, rest until you are well enough to run again.
If you’ve developed a painful case of runner’s knee, try resting until you’re confident the pain and condition have subsided.
Yes, it sucks to take time out of a sport you might love to bits but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Sometimes it’s better to rest up for a few days than to do yourself more damage by running through the pain. Despite the name of this blog I always say safety first, runners second.
Listen to your body before each run, determine whether you’re fit enough to run and then act accordingly. Don’t run through injury or illness instead of resting.
For more information on running through illness, check out the following post:
7. Expect to consistently run at a certain pace
Us runners are always setting goals we want to achieve. Race personal bests, covering a specific mileage over a week and maintaining a certain pace are all goals we aspire to achieve.
It’s a good idea to have an ideal pace in mind that you’d like to be able to run at. However, don’t obsess over running at a specific pace and unnecessarily push yourself if you are struggling to hit it.
Pushing yourself too hard to match a fast pace can be dangerous if you are struggling. You could risk hormonal imbalances, overheating the body, losing fluids too quickly, cause dizziness and lead to muscle injury. Not ideal.
Before each run, have a pace in mind you would like to achieve but remind yourself it won’t be the end of the world if you don’t hit it.
For example, a runner might have a 7:30 minutes per mile pace in mind before they run. At first, they match the pace comfortably but eventually start to struggle. A sensible runner will know it is perfectly reasonable to slow down to say a 7:45 minutes per mile pace.
It’s better to drop the intensity and keep going rather than to burn yourself out by struggling to hit a pace standard you are locked onto.
Before you run, never expect to consistently run at a certain pace. Have an ideal pace in mind, try to match it and if – for whatever reason – you can’t, be prepared to slow down.
8. Not wearing suitable running clothes
Okay, this one is a little obvious, but I have actually had friends come out for a run in denim shorts and a Fred Perry polo top. Not wearing suitable running clothes is a massive error to avoid before a run.
If you head out for your run in normal everyday clothes, like a pair of jeans and a cotton T-shirt, you will quickly encounter problems like overheating and restricted movement. Don’t let this be you; always wear proper running clothing.
Purchase a few sets of quality running clothes and have them ready laid out before each of your runs. This way you’ll not only have the correct clothing, but you’ll find it easier to simply slip on the already laid out clothes and run without hesitation.
Running clothes are specifically designed for the sport and help you stay cool, give you a wide motion of movement and are often loose fitting for comfort.
For more information on running clothing, check out the following posts:
- 9 Reasons You Should Buy A GPS Running Watch
- Top 5 Best Running Backpacks
- Top 13 Best Running Sunglasses
- 17 Game Changing Running Accessories
- 13 Best GPS Running Watches
- 10 Great Running Jackets For Men
- 11 Best Headphones For Runners
- 10 Great Energy Gels For Runners
- 30 Great Gift Ideas for Runners
- 30 Great Fancy Dress Ideas for Runners
- 7 Signals You Need New Running Shoes
- 5 Best Men’s Running Shoes for 2018
- Top 5 Running Shoe Brands
9. Doubt yourself
As with anything worthwhile in life, us runners can sometimes have periods of negativity and self-doubt.
Maybe we’re not progressing as well as we could towards a certain goal, not running as far as we know we should, not hitting a desired pace or we’re doubting our running ability in general.
Whatever the perceived issue, doubting yourself is very dangerous as it creates an aura of negativity and depreciates your love for the sport.
Having doubts can destroy your running routine. Having negative thoughts can become a self-fulfilling prophecy where your running starts to fit along with your self-doubt, causing a performance decline.
This negative mind-set can quickly become a vicious cycle and if it is not dealt with promptly you might give up running altogether.
Try to be positive about the run coming up. Tell yourself positive affirmations such as ‘I’m going to have a great run’ or ‘I’m happy to be progressing as a runner and can’t wait for this run.’
Another method you could use is visualisation. In your mind, picture running confidently and completing the run with a big smile on your face. This positive thought will soon become a reality as you put your visualisation into practice, making it happen.
There you have it. 9 things you should never do before a run, all learned from personal experience across my years of being a runner.
Though you don’t need to obsess over all of these things before each and every run, an awareness of them will go a long way and help you to avoid building bad habits.