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Stretching is an important component of any fitness routine. Although it can be tempting to skip warm-up (especially if you’re on the clock), you should know better. Running with muscles that are not properly stretched can result in injury that keeps you off the road or trail for days, weeks or even months.
According to Nikki Kimball, from Runner’s World, dynamic stretching has many benefits: “loosens up muscles and increases heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow to help you run more efficiently.”
Begin each running workout with a 5 to 10 minute jog followed by these five essential dynamic stretches and your legs will totally return the favor the next time you step out the door.
1. Walking Lunges
Why are they good for you: walking lunges open up the quads and hip flexors, which are the major muscle groups you’ll be using during your run. Plus, they simulate the forward motion of running, making them a runner-friendly warm-up stretch!
How to do them: Stand with your feet together and take a step forward with your right foot using a long stride, keeping the front knee over or just behind your toes. Bend the front knee to 90 degrees and lower your body by dropping your back knee toward the ground. Maintain an upright posture and keep your abdominal muscles tight. Then, rise up and take a big step forward with your left knee to get the stretch on your left side.
2. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretches
Why are they good for you: this is a very important stretch, especially for those runners who work at a desk all day. If you do, you probably have tight hip flexors, because they’re constantly in a state of flexion.
How to do them: Start in a lunge position (see above how to do it) with your front knee at 90 degrees and aligned over your toes. Straighten your back leg, until you feel a stretch along the front of your back thigh. Raise your arms up over your head and hold for a few seconds, then release.
3. Hip Circles
Why are they good for you: along with the kneeling hip flexor stretches, hip circles help you warm up the hips, which is key to a runner’s performance. In fact, the hips is where the hip flexors, psoas, and quads and hamstrings come in together, so opening up the joints and muscles of that area before hitting the pavement can help prevent injury.
How to do them: standing with your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart, rotate your hips in circles in a clockwise and then counterclockwise pattern, 6 to 10 rotations each direction.
4. Calf Raises
Why are they good for you: calf muscles are responsible for every single step you take on your run. When your foot leaves the ground during a run, your calf muscles contract to make that happen. To avoid soreness or – even worse – an injury, give them some pre-run love by doing a simple set of calf raises.
How to do them: stand on a step with your toes on the edge and your heels hanging off. Push up with both feet into a calf raise, then slowly lower your heels so that they come below the stair and you feel a stretch through your calf muscle.
5. Side Stretches
Why are they good for you: although the cause of side stitches is unclear, some fitness experts say you can help prevent them by stretching your torso before running.
How to do them: bring your arms up over your head and, keeping your abdominals tight, lean to the right and then to the left, bending at the waist. Do this movement dynamically, holding for one or two breaths on each side to warm up the muscles of the midsection.
If you need help incorporating stretching into your running routine, try our 5-Minute Stretch for iOS! This app takes the guess-work out of stretching and makes it fun and enjoyable.
You started running months ago, yet every time you hop on the scale, you feel frustrated with the numbers! Sounds familiar?
Running is a great way to stay in shape and increase your fitness levels. But running and weight loss don’t always go hand-in-hand. So, you might be wondering: what am I doing wrong?
Start by avoiding these common mistakes that can sabotage your efforts to drop a few pounds. There might be a few things on this list that surprise you!
Setting Unrealistic Goals
People often think that a significant weight loss is a consequence of training. Take “The Biggest Loser” as an example: even though the show inspires people to lose weight, it also sets them up for very unrealistic weight loss expectations.
Set a pound to two pounds per week as a realistic goal. But avoid getting too preoccupied with singular scale readouts. Instead, watch for progress over the long haul, and remember to have ways other than the number on the scale to measure your progress, such as how your clothes are fitting or the number of inches you’ve lost.
Overestimating the Calories Burned
It’s true that running burns more calories than nearly any other activity! But you can easily overspend your calorie deficit with a post-run snack.
By understanding about how many calories you burn during your runs, you’ll have a better idea of how to approach that post-run hunger. Very generally, the average man burns 124 calories per mile and the average woman burns 105, which means that a five-miler can burn 525 to 620 calories. If you want a more accurate approach, try using a heart rate monitor, during your runs.
Sports Fuel Overdose
Some runners assume that because they’re running, they’re supposed to refuel before the training is over. Sports drinks, gels and bars might be important tools in a runner’s training arsenal, but when overused they might compromise your weight loss efforts. Not only are they high in calories, but they also have very little nutritional benefit and they won’t keep you full.
Just water should be fine, if you’re running for less than 60 minutes. Go longer and you should consume 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour of exercise.
Not Fueling Postrun
After longer or tougher workouts, your muscles are hungry, but you might not be. This could help your weight loss, but it actually works the other way around: when your body settles in and realizes its glycogen stores are low, you’ll feel much hungrier.
Even if you don’t have enough appetite after a tougher run, try to refuel within an hour after completing your workout. Keep this snack to fewer than 200 calories.
Not Readjusting Calorie Needs
The lower your weight, the less calories you will need to maintain it. So if you keep consuming the same amount of calories, you’ll probably hit a weight loss plateau.
To continue on losing weight, you have to gradually reduce your calorie intake. First, determine how many calories you need each day with a daily caloric expenditure calculator. Then, create a deficit of approximately 500 calories per day, if your goal is to lose a pound a week.
If you can’t get through the day without a snack, you’re not alone! For us runners, it’s very hard to stick with the three square meals plan without having midnight or mid-afternoon cravings.
Don’t be tempted to grab a bag of sweets or a cake on the way home from work, though. Runners need to fuel their bodies with healthy, nutritious foods before, during and after their runs. This nutrition strategy not only silences your grumbling stomach, but also improves your performance, boosts recovery and aids in weight loss.
From peaches to popcorn, we’ve got 7 runner-friendly snacks that can be eaten whenever hunger comes knocking:
Bananas are a favorite among runners. They are a great source of good carbs, vitamin B6 and potassium. The simple sugars and low amount of fiber make bananas especially easy to digest, which means they are a good snack before, during, or after workout.
This juicy fruit contains several key nutrients for the everyday runner. Peaches are rich in fiber, vitamin C and beta-carotene, a heart-protective antioxidant. They also provide a good amount of potassium, a mineral critical for regulating fluid and electrolyte levels, which makes them the perfect snack for rehydrating after a warm run.
Carrots are low-calorie but filling and contain carotene and vitamin A, which promote eye health and strong immune function. Not only are they good for your health, but they also help you lose weight! Eat them before dinner, so you can satisfy your hunger pangs and avoid overindulging during dinner.
Smoothies can be a nutritious and refreshing summer treat, that runners can have for breakfast, before a run, or as a refreshing, reenergizing, post-run drink.
Mix fruit, juice or soy milk for a healthful dose of fiber, vitamins C and A, plus potassium, fiber, and calcium.
Low in fat and fairly high in carbohydrates, yogurt is also a great source of protein, potassium and calcium. Its live and active cultures are good for the digestive system and makes yogurt a highly digestible pre-race snack.
Cold chocolate milk tastes pretty refreshing after a summer run. It also provides protein, carbohydrates, B vitamins and calcium, making it a great recovery drink – for stronger muscles and bones.
Popcorn can be a healthy snack when you crave a salty food, as long as it’s not loaded with butter, oil, sugar, or loads of salt. Popcorn has very similar nutritional benefits to brown rice or whole wheat bread and since it is rich in fiber it will help you feel fuller longer.
We all know that to improve our running, we have to do much more than just run. Having strong legs is crucial, but to become a more resilient runner, making sure you have a strong core is key.
Core muscles include the postural muscles, which includes the muscles of the back, stomach, and hips. By adding a series of core exercises to your training plan, you’ll be building your strength, stabilizing your body while running, and improving your form when you get tired.
There are lots of core exercises out there, but some of them are definitely better for runners than others. Here are five effective core strengthening exercises that you can do without stepping foot in a gym – all you need is a little floor space!
Lie on your stomach and prop your weight on your toes and forearms. Place your toes about hip distance apart with your elbows resting on the floor right under your shoulders. Keep a straight line from your head to your feet and be sure that your abdominal muscles are engaged.
Hold this position for 30 seconds. Increase the number of repetitions and the length of time you hold the pose as your core strength increases.
Lying on your right side, lift your body and balance on your right elbow and outer edge of your right foot. There should be a straight diagonal line from your feet up to your head.
As an advanced form of the exercise, you can do lateral leg raises, by slowly lifting your left leg to a 45-degree angle and lowering it back down to the start position.
Start by lying on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the ground. Lift your hips until there is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Extend one leg straight out, knees together, and hold for a few seconds. Return to the initial position and repeat on the other side. During the exercise, make sure you don’t drop your hips.
With a five to fifteen pound weight on the floor next to you, sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Lean back so your torso is at a 45-degree angle to floor, making sure to keep the spine straight and not rounded and you feel your abs engage. For a greater challenge, lift your feet ever-so-slightly off the floor. Slowly rotate round to the right and pick up your weight. Holding the weight, slowly rotate all the way round to the left as far behind as you can.
The Superman Pose
Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended. Start by lifting your right arm with the left leg, then alternate sides. You can practice variations of this move by only lifting the arms or only lifting the legs. The most advanced version of this exercise is holding both arms and legs off the ground at one time. Hold each of these poses for 20 to 30 seconds.
The long-awaited vacation days are around the corner. But a few days away from home also means being away from your regular training routes, training buddies, and training routine.
But there is no need to sacrifice your running while you get some rest and relaxation. In fact, training at a new location can improve your performance and versatility, while you might meet some of the area’s friendliest runners.
Stay on track while you’re on the road, with these simple tips and strategies:
Plan your workouts
The biggest obstacle to training while on vacation is time. So, as you map out your sightseeing plans, you should also spend some time scheduling your workouts. Ideally, you’ll end up with a plan for how your training works into your vacation schedule.
If you’re training for a half or full marathon with one of Hal Higdon’s plans, you may want to plan your training so that your vacation corresponds with a “stepback” week.
Do your research before you leave
Plan and map your running routes, along with the top attractions and restaurants that you can’t miss at your vacation destination. Check out sites such as Map My Run or Trails.com for running routes at your vacation locale.
Make sure you have a few running routes in hand in case some routes you mapped aren’t suitable. By doing so, you won’t feel as concerned about running at your destination once you arrive.
Find a running buddy
Will you be traveling with others? Scope them out to see if there are any runners in the group. If you’re not lucky, you can still register at sites such as Athlinks and SeriousRunning or find a running club that you can join during your stay – RRCA is the place to start looking.
Running specialty shops are also a great resource for out-of-town runners. Not only can they provide useful information about running routes, but they may even offer a free group run that you can join.
Find a local gym
If you’re not 100% sure the running routes you found are safe, opt for the treadmill. Most larger hotels have a gym on site. But if the one you’re staying at doesn’t, try to find one locally where you can work out. Some gyms offer day guest passes or an inexpensive 30-day membership that will allow you to keep your training on track.
Enter a race
Entering a race is a great way to see the sights and guarantee that you’ll run at least once during your stay. Search on sites such as runnersworld.com’s Race Finder to see if there’s a race during the time you’ll be staying at your destination.
Take advantage of cross-training
When you’re on vacation, you may end up doing activities that aren’t part of your usual exercise routine, but that can be great substitute for your run. Is there a great hike or a bike ride you can take? Can you go kayaking, surfing or swimming? Don’t feel pressured to run every day and do one of those cross-training activities, instead.
If you end up not having the time to run while on vacation, don’t beat yourself up over it. Enjoy the relaxing days! Your body and your mind will thank you!
What’s your favorite season for outdoor running? If you picked summer, you are not alone! We love the bright blue skies, the smell of grass in the morning, more daylight before and after work, and not to have to dress in layers! This could be the perfect running scenery if it wasn’t for extreme heat and humidity!
Running in such harsh conditions can put you at risk for dehydration, heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.
To help you optimize your hot-weather workouts – and because we are summer fans ourselves – we put together some proven to work running tips:
Morning is the coolest time of the day to run. Before sunrise or right after it, the roads are still cool from the night’s lower temperatures.
If you can’t train during those hours, try to avoid running between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s intensity is at its greatest, or seek shade and grass, since asphalt and concrete retain more heat.
Hydration is one of the most important elements to staying cool and performing your best in warmer temperatures. This means you should drink fluids before, during and after your runs.
When it comes to staying hydrated, sports drinks beat water. Why? They contain electrolytes, which increase your water-absorption rate and replace the electrolytes you lose in sweat.
In training, drink 16 ounces of a sport drink an hour before you head out and prepare yourself to toss down five to eight ounces of a sport drink about every 20 minutes while working out.
Wear light-colored, loose-fitting and lightweight apparel that will help your body breathe and cool itself down naturally. Microfiber polyesters and cotton blends are good fabric choices because they will wick moisture away from your skin so cooling evaporation can occur.
For your head opt for a visor instead of a hat – it is too constrictive and traps heat. Don’t forget your shades and to protect your skin with a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Adjust your Paces
As you probably already know, performance suffers in the heat and humidity. In fact, every 5°F rise in temperature above 60°F can slow your pace by as much as 20 to 30 seconds per mile. So don’t push it!
Slow down, take walking breaks, and save your hard efforts for cooler weather. After all, this hot and humid season is not the time to try to push your pace and try to achieve a race PR.
What’s your trick to dealing with the heat? Share it in the comment section!
After a long or hard run, the last thing you may feel like doing is eating a big hot meal, especially now that summer is finally here and the temperatures are rising. And what could be better than a cold, refreshing smoothie on a hot day?
Not only are they fresh, but also a source of nutrients and energy that all runners need to boost their performance and recovery.
Here are four healthy, delicious smoothies from some of our favorite sites around the web:
Sweet Spinach Smoothie
Found on Popsugar
Why is it good for you: This veggie-packed smoothie is a good source of protein, vitamin A and bone-building vitamin K, as well as an impressive amount of essential nutrients like manganese, potassium, and vitamin C.
2 cups spinach leaves, packed
1 ripe pear, peeled, cored, and chopped
15 green or red grapes
6 ounces fat-free plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped avocado
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Directions: In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients until blended to the desired consistency.
Crunchy Coffee Fix
Found on Runner’s World
Why is it good for you: While coffee can speed your recovery, natural cocoa powder provides anti-inflammatory antioxidants for just a few calories. In addition, bananas are rich in potassium, that helps maintain fluid balance, and almonds contain healthy fats that help keep you full.
4 ounces chilled coffee
4 ounces fat-free milk
1 banana (preferably frozen), sliced
2 tablespoons whole almonds
2 teaspoons natural cocoa powder
Directions: Place ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.
Found on About Health
Why is it good for you: Not only is this a very refreshing smoothie – which come in handy after a hot run – it is also surprisingly filling. Watermelon is best known for being rich in Lycopene – especially important for our cardiovascular health – but also for containing key vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fiber.
2 cups chopped watermelon
1/2 cup yogurt
1 cup ice
Directions: In a blender, combine the ingredients and blend until smooth.
Cherry Vanilla Almond Smoothie
Found on Running to the Kitchen
Why is it good for you: Cherries are a superfruit! They have the highest antioxidant level of any fruit, reduce muscle inflammation and soreness, and are good for the heart. And the cherry on the top of the cake is: it tastes just like Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup water
¼ almond milk
1 cup pitted cherries
2 tbsp whole almonds
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp vanilla protein powder
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
½ cup ice
Directions: Put all ingredients into blender and pulse for a “chewy” consistency. If you want it smooth, just use puree setting and blend longer.
Did your favorite smoothie make our list? Share its recipe, if it didn’t!
There’s a lot more to running than simply lacing up your shoes, hitting the road and doing what feels natural. Improving your running form can help you run faster, more efficiently, and with less stress on your body and reduced injury risk.
From foot strikes and stride turnover to posture and body tension, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to running form.
Follow these tips to work on perfecting your running form:
Perfect your stride
One of the most common mistakes new runners make is reaching out with their foot to take a longer stride. Overstriding creates an aggressive, heel-smashing foot strike, which not only wastes more energy, but also leads to injury issues such as runner’s knee and shin splints.
Your strides shouldn’t be too short either. This is just as inefficient as overstriding. When it comes to proper running form, you should find a stride length that is comfortable, almost effortless.
Ideally your knee should be above your foot and your shin vertical as your foot makes contact with the ground. This running form will put your foot down underneath your hips, preventing your leg from stretching in front of your body.
One of the biggest concerns among new runners is how their foot strikes the ground. Heel strikers tend to land with their heel first and roll to the ball of the foot, while for toe runners, landing on their toes comes naturally.
Even though, the reality is that most average runners are either heel strikers or toe runners, these two foot strikes can truly damage your performance. If you land on your toes, your calves will get tight or fatigued quickly and you may develop shin pain. Landing on your heels wastes energy and may cause injury.
A mid-foot strike, in contrast to a heel or a forefoot strike, provides greater shock absorption, decreases strain on the calves and Achilles tendon, and may help prevent shin splints. Heading to a track and leaving your shoes behind is a great way to practice avoiding a huge heel or toe strike.
Check your posture
Just as you should maintain good posture when standing or sitting, maintaining a straight and erect posture while running is essential. Just by keeping a good posture, you will help release tension and reduce strain in the neck and shoulders and prevent muscle fatigue.
Next time you get out for a run, follow these proper posture principles that will help you to reinforce a tall, straight back with no slouching:
- Hold your head high, centered between your shoulders, and your back straight.
- Your eyes should be focused on the ground about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you.
- Keep your shoulders under your ears and maintain a neutral pelvis.
- Avoid side-to-side arm swinging. To help you remember, imagine a vertical line splitting your body in half – your hands should not cross it.
- When you’re feeling sluggish, poke your chest out for an extra boost of confidence.
Whether is it caused by lack of experience or by trying too hard, the truth is many runners have way too much tension in their bodies. But putting this extra pressure on yourself isn’t doing you any favors.
In fact, anywhere you’re holding extra tension is using up energy that should be spent elsewhere. It’s important to know your tension spots and check to make sure you’re not clenching when you should be relaxed:
- Be aware of jaw tension and squinting. Unclench your jaw by opening your mouth and taking a deep breath; to reduce squinting, use a hat with a brim that puts your eyes in shade, or by wearing sunglasses.
- Keep your arms relaxed and hands as loosed as possible. You can hold your hands as if you are holding drumsticks or as if you have a fragile egg in each hand. Don’t clench your fists because it can lead to tightness in the arms, shoulders, and neck.
- Keep your wrists loose. This will help you maintain a good hand and shoulder position.
You’re a very committed runner. You never skip a workout, you fuel properly and even rest when all you wanted was to log some miles. But, even so, you never seem to improve your race times. You’re not alone.
In fact, this is one of the biggest issues that strike runners who are focused in increasing their speed, along with their mileage.
To help you become faster, we have put together five tips to change things up in training and stimulate better results:
You can’t become a faster runner without practicing running fast. Short sprinting bursts are a great exercise for improving your personal best, along with building your strength and endurance. And because they last only a short amount of time, they are easy to incorporate into your running plan.
There are many different ways of incorporating short repeats into your training. Whether you choose to time your intervals or use the terrain to your advantage, it’s important you don’t push yourself too much, too soon. Keep in mind that a fast pace doesn’t mean an all-out sprint, but a faster pace than your usual.
Tempo runs are similar to high-intensity intervals, but instead of doing short sprinting bursts, you have to run slightly faster than your normal pace for a longer time period. A tempo run should challenge your body, but not as much as a sprint: if you’re able to hold a conversation, you’re going too slow, but if you can easily answer short questions, it means you’re at the right pace.
These types of runs will push your physical threshold, which will help you improve your endurance and speed. If you have never done a tempo run, start out with 10 minutes, and build up to 40 minutes, every 7 to 10 days.
This strategy involves running the second half of a run at a faster pace than the first half. This is a very simple way to make every run a good run and, despite what you may think, it actually helps to improve your PR.
To incorporate negative splits into one of your runs, start at a good, steady pace. After the first half of the run, your body is properly warmed up and it should be easy to increase your pace on the second half of the workout, so you end up with a faster overall time. Out-and-back runs are a great way to inspire negative splits: run at a comfortable pace to a destination, and increase your speed once you head back home.
The next time you get out for a run, make sure an incline is part of your route. Running up hills is the perfect way to make you a faster runner: it strengthens the same muscles you use for sprinting and builds your body’s endurance, which can be useful when you’re fatigued and struggling to pick up the pace.
Whether you choose to run on the treadmill or outside, you can either opt for short and fast reps (8 x 20 seconds) to build strength and power, or longer reps (8 x 1 minute) to build speed and endurance.
Run on different surfaces
If you’re used to running on flat terrain, get yourself to a soft-surface trail to challenge your muscles in different ways.
Running on undulating routes and on different types of pavement avoids repetition and forces your body to engage muscles that normally go unused while you run a consistent road or track gait.