Whether you’re an expert road runner or just starting out, it pays to build good habits. The following list of five healthy running habits will help you succeed at any level. But remember, they only become habits through repetition!
1. Set Goals
If you don't establish a set of goals, running can quickly become just an endless loop of plodding one foot ahead of the other. Having goals gives you something to strive for. What’s more, you can bask in the glow of having met — or exceeded — the challenges you set for yourself. Common goals could be training for a challenging new run/race, increasing speed/distance or adding a new option to your pre-run workout. But keep your goals realistic! A series of small achievements will motivate you more than continually scrabbling toward a far-off lofty finish line.
2. Consistency is Key
Having structure to your running regimen helps your body adapt. While consistency doesn’t necessarily mean running every day (recovery is crucial; see below), running on a set schedule will make it easier for you to get in the habit. It will also let your friends and loved ones know what to expect from you, and you'll be less tempted to blow off your run.
3. Recovery is Crucial (see?)
Let's face it; running puts a lot of stress on your muscles, joints and internal systems. Letting your body recover from all that hard work not only eases the strain and reduces the risk of injury, it enables your body to put your hard-won gains to work. Pushing yourself too hard without a break can lead to severe health problems.
But downtime doesn’t necessarily mean planting yourself on the couch for a day (though it could if that’s your speed). Engage in an easier run or a casual sport or activity. Work other muscle groups and you can face your next regular run day refreshed, energized and whole.
And for what it’s worth, see a doctor or trainer if you suspect you have an injury. There’s no shame in asking for help, especially when it helps allay potential long-term problems.
4. Fuel the Machine
The cardinal rule of any physical activity is to drink enough water! This is especially true if you’re running in the Texas sun, compete in long races or set a course over difficult terrain. Your body needs water to function correctly. Severe dehydration may cause terrible long-term effects on top of more immediate performance issues (or medical emergencies).
Hand-in-hand with hydration is diet. Balance carbs (fast energy) with protein (stabilized blood sugar). Choose healthy snacks such as fruits and nuts. It’s okay to eat big while training for an upcoming race, but don’t get in the habit of having huge portions on the daily during your regular routine. But while you don’t want to gorge yourself right before a run, running on an empty stomach could leave you sluggish and low on energy.
Everyone’s bodies are different. Find your balance or work with a nutritionist.
5. Get Those ZZZZs
From a cat nap to a full night's rest, sleep allows your body and mind to recover (there's that word again), repair and revitalize. It's a plague of our modern world that we just can't seem to find time for sufficient sleep. But sleep is crucial. Find the time. Make a stable sleep pattern part of the schedule outlined in #2 above.
Your mind, body, and workout will thank you.