[Attention runners] Avoid injuries and run stronger by improving your muscle tone with this guide
Hello! I start this post by thanking you for your interest. I made it with all running enthusiasts in mind, from beginners to athletes.
I am also an avid runner. I have competed in half marathons (13.6 miles) and triathlons (swim, bike, and run). I am also a Registered Nutritionist (RDN).
I admit that, throughout my journey in this discipline, I have made a huge number of mistakes that I want to share with you so that you do not fall into them. I will also tell you how you can overcome them.
Use this content as a guide on what to do and what to avoid when it comes to running. I would have liked to have it when I started, but hey, we don't all start at the same point, right?
A road that started with some potholes
I have always run, but I never saw it as a hobby . At first I did it more like cardio to keep the extra calories from the weekend at bay.
I didn't time myself or prepare for a race. Running was more integrated into my strength training program. Looking back, I realize that at that point I never had any injuries.
As time went by, I fell in love with running . I dedicated myself to it because it helped me release stress and forget about problems.
I gave up strength training (biggest mistake I've ever made in this field) and focused solely on running and increasing my distance. I thought, like many runners , that having muscles would make me slower and heavier.
In hindsight, I wish I had done the research on how to run the right way to avoid injury. But I was young, I thought I was invincible, and I knew them all. I just ran daily or on weekends.
When I was a full-time intern to finish my nutrition degree, I didn't have much time to train. It was much easier for me to do shorter runs on weekdays and play weekend warrior, running a longer distance to offset my goal of running 16-20 miles per week, not knowing I was damaging my body.
With my tight schedule, I didn't make time to strengthen my muscles and protect my knees. I wish I had known that a simple 10-15 minute routine (before or between my runs), 2-3 times a week, would have saved me the hours and money I had to invest in physical therapy. What they say is true, you learn when it hurts your pocket and time.
Over the years, I ended up with an injury known as "runner's knee." It was the worst pain I have ever felt. Not even dancing as a professional or playing soccer made me suffer so much.
It cost me a race that I had planned months before. I had to take 2-4 months off to fully recover. I wasn't doing physical therapy yet, but I was wearing support sleeves on my left knee (where it all started).
Little by little, I began to incorporate resistance training to strengthen my muscles around the knees.
Runners tend to have weak glutes and hamstrings. Unbeknownst to me, I was only targeting my quads with squats and leg extensions, when I needed to do a comprehensive workout that included all muscles equally, especially those not used when running.
I also suffered several injuries because I overtrained, not listening to my body screaming to give it time to rest and recover. It all ended in countless rehab sessions.
And I started taking steps in the right direction
The experience taught me to be more conscious in my practice and I understood that I had to change things.
So, I began to include a series of actions in my training that helped me evolve in this discipline.
I am going to share them with you so that you have a reference. If you dare to practice them, you will soon notice the results.
- Stretching : Restorative yoga, 1-2 times a week, on your recovery days (when you're not training). Yoga stretches the entire body and strengthens the pelvic floor and core.
- Resistance training : classic pilates, 1 to 2 times a week, the days that you do short distances or those that you do not run.
- Weight training at home or in the gym: 2 times a week. Focus on the lower body which includes the hamstrings, glutes, quads and calves, combined with functional movement using your core. You can use dumbbells or resistance bands.
- Running : 3 to 4 times a week depending on the 4 variables: distance, duration, intensity and pavement. I would only change 10% and based on tolerance.
About the duration you can do several things. I would set a timer for 15 minutes. I would walk/run in those 15 minutes, but keep the same pace for walking and running.
After a week or two, it would increase by 10%. I would run more and walk less. When you can run at the same speed for 15 minutes, I would progress to 17 minutes and so on until you get to 3-4 miles straight.
Tip: Based on your goals, do what is most comfortable for you and gives you the best results. And always listen to your body. If you feel pain, stop. DON'T FORCE IT!
To run faster and safer, you must learn to eat
Now I am going to talk to you about my favorite topic: food and nutritional supplements.
If you eat a balanced diet and make sure you eat the recommended amount of protein, fiber, fruit and, above all, vegetables, you don't need to take any type of supplement.
But let's be honest: how many people do you know who eat really healthy and balanced 80% of the time?
Also, when you train 100% your body is stressed, both to such a level that the absorption of vitamins and minerals is decreased. The same goes for stress and lack of sleep that are common denominators these days.
That's when supplementation is a smart strategy, because it would help you achieve the precise levels of nutrients your body needs to function optimally.
Common Dietary Practices Every Runner Should Avoid
Many runners make some mistakes when it comes to eating that become their biggest obstacles. I am going to mention four of the most common.
I will also tell you how supplements can boost you to achieve superior results.
- All you eat are carbs
We agree. Consuming carbohydrates is essential because they are your main source of energy.
But if your goal is to stay at a healthy weight or you want to lose pounds, you should cut back on pasta, bread, and cereal. Substitute them for more natural and less refined carbohydrates such as rice, quinoa, potato and sweet potato.
It is also of the utmost importance that you include enough protein in your diet to prevent excessive training from eating away at your muscles.
Eating fish at least once a week will be especially beneficial for you because in addition to providing you with a good dose of protein, it is a great source of minerals such as iron, zinc, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus or potassium, all of which are important when you do intense exercise.
If this is an impossible mission for you, you can use an omega-3 supplement that will help reduce your inflammation levels and protect your joints.
And whether you eat meat, poultry or fish, you might also want to keep a supplement like our 100% Whey on hand to help you build and keep your muscles toned and recover faster after your workouts.
It is ideal that you use it on the days that you go running very early and you do not want to go on an empty stomach.
- Your vegetables are just the accompaniment
Rather than seeing vegetables as a companion to your dishes that are mainly carbohydrate-based, you should give them a more prominent role in your diet to guarantee you all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber you need.
Remember that when you train at high intensity levels, your immune system is compromised. And if you don't get the required nutrients, you will end up getting sick and having to stop your workouts.
If you find it difficult to eat fruits and vegetables, it would be useful to consume Zinc and Vitamin C to ensure that your defenses are ready and you can continue training to the fullest.
- Do you think being a runner allows you to eat as much as you want?
Running only burns about 100 calories per mile, no matter how fast you run.
If you ran 10 miles, that means you burned about 1,000 calories. But that doesn't mean you can eat a burger and fries combo or half a chocolate cake.
I do not want to say with this that from time to time you cannot give yourself your tastes, but try not to be the usual.
Better focus on nourishing your body with quality foods that are not processed. Remember that we are what we eat.
- non-stop drinking coffee
Caffeine has many benefits. Among them, increase performance and help restore glycogen, which supplies you with the energy you need to go running again.
But if you're a beginner, you should know that everyone metabolizes caffeine differently.
While taking it regularly can be an ergogenic (improving capacity) aid, it could also make its effects less potent on race day.
Also, excess can affect your sleep and therefore your recovery. If you notice that you are sleeping less hours a night, lower the dose and consume it before 3 in the afternoon.
Like any other sport, running can make you fall in love.
But remember that love is blind and if you don't keep your eyes open to the requirements it demands to practice it effectively and safely, you can crash into the pavement miles before you become a true runner .
The more information you get on the topic, the less you'll get lost along the way. Also if you maintain balance in your diet and discipline in your training. And if you rely on supplementation, you can reach your goal faster.