12 Fitness & Nutrition Tips for Runners

Ready or not, race season is coming!

Whether you’re looking to win your division, set a new personal best or start a new fitness journey, try these tips and tricks to help you prep for your next race.

The Running Part

  • Enjoy the process
    Running is a great way to get active and stay healthy, but the key is to enjoy it! Yes, it’s important to eat right, maintain certain paces or complete training workouts, but it’s equally as crucial to enjoy the process—otherwise you’ll find it hard to find the motivation to keep going.
  • The best training mimics your race
    We call this the ‘race model.’ Runners are best served by training at their goal race pace. If you want to run a 10K at an eight-minute-per-mile pace, practice miles at that pace. As you get closer to race day, treat your long runs like a dress rehearsal.
  • Gradually increase your training mileage
    Escalating your training load by too much too quickly can cause injury. When upping your mileage, do so by no more than 10% per week. However, it’s important to listen to your body. Mileage isn’t everything and there is no clear-cut method that works for every person.  
  • Find a running buddy
    To boost motivation, keep you accountable and have more fun during the training process, we recommend getting a running buddy!
  • Strength training is important, too
    Research has proven that strength training prevents injury and improves overall running performance. In a study done by the University of Illinois concluded that after 10 weeks of combining strength with endurance training, leg strength increased by 30 percent and running time improved by 13 percent. To strength train properly, you can see a Personal Trainer, try a Group Fitness class or use our weight and/or functional training area at one of our 24 O2 Fitness clubs.

Beyond Just Running

  • Don’t neglect the importance of sleep
    One way to make sure you’re getting enough sleep is to follow the minute-per-mile rule. This states that you sleep one extra minute per night for every mile that you run per week. For example, if you run 30 miles a week, sleep an extra half hour each night.
  • Your kicks matter
    Don’t race in shoes that have reached 500 miles (depending on the type of shoe, your weight  and your foot strike pattern). Once they’ve reached their limit, kick them to the curb. To give yourself— and your shoe—the best chance, visit a running specialty store to determine what type of shoe is right for you.
  • Abs are made in the kitchen
    Okay, maybe abs aren’t your focus, but the rule still applies—eating properly is 80% of the training process. It’s vital that you’re eating enough calories (and the right calories) before runs, as well as after runs (your diet is a major key to recovery). Pre-run foods should be a combination of healthy carbs and protein, like oatmeal or toast with peanut butter and honey. To recover after your run, stick to  foods high in protein that will facilitate muscle regrowth—Greek yogurt, organic chocolate milk or a protein bar. And remember: eat within 30 minutes after your workout to get the full benefit. 
  • Stretch it out
    Strenuous exercise can shorten a person’s muscles, hindering mobility and proper form over time. Stretching keeps your muscles flexible, thus preventing injury and ensuring that your muscles and joints are functioning at their fullest range of motion. 

Race Day

  • Bring on the carbs
    A few days before a long race, emphasize healthy carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, beans, corn and veggies) as you’ll need a longer-lasting energy source during your race. Carbs should take up to 60-65% of your total calorie intake leading up to race day. 
  • Stick to your routine on race day
    Avoid trying anything new on or near race day. This includes sleeping habits, foods, drinks, supplements, etc. Don’t risk throwing your body out of whack during crunch time. Start experimenting with new routines now so you know what works for you come race time.
  • Aim for an even pace
    The best way to reach a personal best is to keep an even pace from start to finish. Running too fast too early means you’ll pay for it later.

Now you’re ready to train like an elite athlete, no matter your starting level. Keep a positive mindset, set reasonable goals, have fun and use a little Dr. Seuss as inspiration:

‘You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!’

Written by: Sydnei Murphy, O2 Fitness Intern, Duke University Track Team

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