In this article we’ll talk about the top 8 worst things to do before a run. These are common mistakes that I hear about often and I have myself learnt the hard way. This post is all about removing barriers to successful running and increasing the chances of a decent session to make every run count.
1. Static stretching
Perhaps the most common mistake made by runners, static stretching creates the risk of injury. This usually happens when runners get out of the door and start immediately stretching out their hamstrings, thighs, hips, shoulders and upper back.
Static stretching can risk injury because the blood isn’t yet flowing optimally around the body and the muscles aren’t yet warmed up. This means it will be a massive strain if they’re to start being pulled and stretched out from zero.
Instead, gradually build up the bodies blood flow and readiness for running by doing a light walk which slowly increases in pace. Once you’ve been more for a while, do more of a dynamic stretching routine with some leg swings and lunges, though nothing too demanding.
The idea is to get the pulse raised nice and gradually to give the body ample time to prepare itself for the workout to come.
2. Drinking alcohol, the night before
Consuming alcohol the night before a workout is a massive mistake that some runners make (myself included when I used to drink). My most embarrassing hungover running memory was when I couldn’t run in a straight line during my local 5K after a heavy night. Not a good look!
Alcohol slows down the metabolism, gives you fatigue, disrupts the quality of your sleep, reduces the efficiency of the cardiovascular system and weakens your muscles.
Though I personally think that life is better without alcohol, this is not a view that’s shared by 95% of the people reading this blog post. So, you’re much better of to do yourself a favour and not drink during the night before a workout.
Not even half a drink. Any alcohol, regardless of quantity and strength, is enough to wreak havoc on your body and reduce running performance.
3. Eating and drinking too much
A common mistake runner make is eating or drinking too much before a run.
If you eat and drink too much, it’s going to leave you feeling very uncomfortable with all the food and water sludging around in your stomach as you move.
Also, the digestive system works slower when we run. During a run, blood is diverted away from it to meet the bodies workout demands so the food isn’t going to process as quickly which can elongate the uncomfortable sensation.
Instead, eat something light like a banana or some toast with a glass of water 30 minutes to an hour before your run to give your body ample time for digestion. Light carbs like these are easier for the body to break down into glucose for workout fuel compared to protein heavy foods, so they’re always the best option.
4. Not dressing right
‘By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.’ – Benjamin Franklin
There are two main types of not dressing right that I often see runners make. The first is not wearing sports clothes and the second is not dressing appropriately for the weather.
If you don’t wear sports clothes for your run then you’ll likely overheat, feel restricted, have a decline in performance and have less confidence. Sports clothes, like running jerseys and leggings, are designed to accommodate the body as it goes through the stresses and strains of working out. A decent set of clothes prevent overheating, enable a full range of motion, help wick sweat and regulate body temperature, and raise confidence levels.
Not wearing the right gear for the right weather is also a huge mistake. Ideally, runners should have multiple sets of gear for different weathers including: a set for hot conditions, cold conditions, dark conditions and rainy conditions. There’s nothing worse than going for a run in the freezing cold wind and rain equipped with a vest and a loose pair of sports shorts.
Ideally, runners should have the following in their arsenal:
- Several pairs of running shoes
- A sport watch
- Technical sports tops of different lengths
- Sports bottoms of different lengths
- A lightweight sport jacket
- A sports cap/hat
- LED armbands
- Sports sunglasses
5. Not going to the toilet
I learnt this one the hard way. Being in the middle of a run and needing to go to the toilet is not a fun experience. If you haven’t already had the misfortune to experience it, then believe me.
Not getting to the toilet before a run is one of the worst things you can do as it can not only be disrupting to the run, but it can also be a bit risky. If you know what I mean…
It can be incredibly infuriating when you’re in the middle of a decent workout, getting in some decent speed or distance work, when you suddenly hear mother nature calling.
The best thing to do is to establish a routine before your runs where you always go to the toilet just before heading out. Even if you don’t particularly need to. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
6. Not listening to your body
Some runners ignore the warning signs that their bodies give them and decide to run through injury, illness and extreme discomfort, with the aim of edging nearer to their running goals.
Whilst it’s respectable to want to continue despite the obstacles, it’s actually counterintuitive to continue running without listening these warning signs as the problems risk getting worse.
When you wake up first thing, take a moment to evaluate your current state. How are you feeling? If you’re feeling right as rain, alert and fresh, then brilliant. Go ahead and run. Not a problem.
However, if you wake up feeling tired, lethargic, not fresh, exhausted, ill or achy, your body is telling you that it needs to recover. It might be that you’ve been pushing it to hard with the training or that you’re unfortunately going through a bout of cold or flu.
When your body gives you these warning signs, it’s always ideal to dial the intensity of the training back temporarily. It might be that you take a rest day or two or reduce the intensity of your training (including mileage and desired pace). Don’t feel ashamed about doing this as it’s what your body is asking for when it gives you these signs. Eating the wrong types of foods
7. Consuming the wrong types of foods and drinks
Of course, I’m not going to tell you what you should be eating. That’s your choice. What I am going to do is highlight the types of foods that should be avoided before a run as they lead to a reduction in performance and comfort. Ready?
Foods that should be avoided before a run include:
- Spicy foods like curries, noodles, chillies and peppers
- Fizzy drinks like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Sprite and Tango
- Protein and fibre rich foods
- Caffeinated drinks (though they are okay and can actually increase performance up to a point)
Whilst spicy foods and fizzy drinks are tasty, they can lead to heartburn or gastrointestinal distress during the run. Not ideal.
Protein and fibre heavy foods should be avoided before a run as these take longer for the body to break down and will lead to discomfort during the run. Instead, opt for some light carbs that the body can easily digest like bananas, cereal bars and porridge.
8. Not charging your sports watch
Such sports watches offer runners a range of perks depending on the model including:
- Tracking heart rate
- Tracking distance
- Tracking pace
- Tracking cadence
- Tracking elevation
- Sleep tracking
- Heart rate zone monitoring
- Guided workouts
By tracking performance data, it’s possible for runners to make better decisions that inform their training strategy and approach to running. For example, if you had a positive split (where you run faster in the first half and slowdown in the second) by a he margin then it might be time to employ a different tactic if your strategy is to run negative splits.
‘Most of the world will make decisions by either guessing or using their gut. They will be either lucky or wrong.’ – Suhail Doshi
Not charging your sports watch before a run is a huge mistake because it means that you’re unable to record workout data for post-run analysis. Not only can this be frustrating for your understanding your own performance, it also means that you miss out on the opportunity to get some well-deserved Kudos on Strava. As the saying goes, ‘if it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen!’
There we have it. Eight of the worst things to do before a run. I hope that by reading this list you’re now aware of what mistakes to avoid in order to improve the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of your runs so that you can make each count.
All photos, including featured image, from https://www.pexels.com/