There are some things you just have to learn on your own. No book or well meaning friend can get the information through a thick skull. I know that is the case for me. I have read so many books and articles on running that it would probably make any average person’s head swim. That is what I do. I research the fool out of any topic I am interested in. But, does that always mean that what I learn sticks? No. There are some things that I just have to learn on my own. Hopefully that will not be the case for everyone reading here. Here are eight tips that I had to learn the hard way. These all represent big mistakes I have made along the way. Please read and do what I say and not what I do.
1. Proper Lubrication
Before you go out on your next run please take the extra bit of time to lubricate any and all places on your body that will be rubbed by another body part or clothing. When in doubt lubricate. Use some Body Glide or Aquaphor. If that is too expensive for you go to the Dollar Store and buy some cheap Vaseline. The goal here is to prevent chafing. You do not want to come home from a good run only to find out that you are raw and bleeding somewhere where your shorts or shirt were rubbing. Ladies, be sure to consider the inside of your sports bra. The seams can do horrible things. Just remember that chaffing is not only very uncomfortable but it is also very unattractive.
2. Proper Hydration
Drink before your run. Drink during your run. Drink after your run. Drink. Drink. Drink. The worst thing a runner can do is get dehydrated. It is way too easy to forget to drink water. It is easy to think about drinking immediately after your run because you are hot and sweaty. You have physical evidence that you need to replenish what you have lost. But, please do not forget about the hours leading up to your run and the hours after the run. You need to be sure you are properly hydrated to get you through the run so drink plenty of water as you prepare for the run. Carry water with you if you are going on a particularly long run. And continue to drink for hours after the run is done. You lost a lot of fluid through your sweat. Replace it. Here’s a handy tip. Drink water until your urine is clear. Yes, you will have to get into the habit of checking but that trick really does work. If your urine is clear you are properly hydrated.
3. Proper Nutrition
This is more for the days you are going on your Long Run. Do not even think about going more than six miles or so without bringing some form of nutrition with you. (Note: I say six miles because that is my turning point here. Everyone is different.) Your body needs energy to keep going and it gets that from food. I know you will not want to eat much of anything solid. Try bringing along some GU or PowerBar Gel. These type products are excellent for replenishing your energy stores to help you keep moving. They are made in such a way that your stomach can digest them during that strenuous exercise. They are light and easy to carry with you. I know such products cost money and perhaps you can figure out a cheaper option but please don’t go without. You are asking your body to do some hard stuff. Feed it properly and it will thank you by allowing you to go longer.
4. Preventing Blisters
Blisters are going to happen. There really is no way around it especially once you start doing longer Long Runs. The key here is to prevent the blisters once you know where they are likely to happen. Let’s say you go on a run and get a blister on one of your left toes. It is a doozy and not fun at all. It heals up fine and your running is back to normal. Time for your Long Run returns. Please go ahead and put a band aid on the same spot you got the blister the first time. Chances are you will get a blister there again if you don’t protect it and once again you will have a not-so-fun time. Take note of other areas that weren’t particularly blisters yet but were red and a bit worn. Those spots could become blisters on longer runs. Protect them too. Use Band Aids, Moleskin, or even the lubrication mentioned in Tip #1 above.
5. What to Eat After a Long Run
Please think carefully about what you eat after your Long Run. Do not eat that brownie or chocolate chip cookie. Do not eat a huge bowl of fried rice covered with shrimp sauce. Do not eat a big bowl of ice cream. Please stick with the fruit like bananas or oranges or carbs like bagels until your stomach is good and settled and back to normal. Eat slowly too. Do not learn this one the hard way. Take my advice. Being tired from a long run and having an upset stomach are not a good combination.
6. Proper Sunscreen
Wear your Sunscreen. Even in the winter. Please say you will wear your sunscreen. It is easy to remember your sunscreen when going to the pool or the beach for the day but maybe not for a run. Take the extra time to put on your sunscreen. Put your bottle of sunscreen right next to your jar of lubrication so that you will remember to do both before every run. Save yourself the anguish of having a headband tan on your face for weeks. Not to mention the painful sunburns you could get on your arms, legs, neck, back, and head. Do it for your health and for your mental well-being.
7. Depending on the Treadmill
Do not depend on the treadmill too much. The treadmill is a tool that has its place in every running training plan. But, it can not replace running on the road. The two are not the same and if you spend too much on the treadmill you will regret it when you go back outside. The road will tear you up and spit you back out. If you must use the treadmill for a period of time due to weather or time constraints that is okay. It is better than not running at all. Just make a point to return to the road as soon as possible and especially within a good amount of time to re-acclimate to the road before a race.
Please respect your body when you are sick. Listen to it. If you feel too sick to run you are too sick to run. Don’t do it. Every person is different and can endure more or less exercise during an illness. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to heal and rest when not feeling well. Pushing your body to perform when it is already fighting an infection or virus can cause it to not be able to fight hard enough. You could make the illness worse, open yourself up to another infection to come in, or make the illness last longer than it should have. Listen to your body and remember the most important aspect of any training program is rest. Use your cold as an excuse to sleep in.
All of these tips represent mistakes I have made over the last year. I had to learn these things the hard way and it was not fun. Please take my advice now and save yourself the agony. My running will take on more meaning knowing that I helped prevent blisters, sunburns, upset stomachs, and headaches. Now go out and have some fun.