For many activities, multiple steps happen before starting. For example, when you play hockey, you put on pads and gloves and lace up your skates. Or when you play soccer, you put on shin pads, maybe have an energy bar. But for running, many runners simply step out of their house or onto a treadmill and go. While this isn’t necessarily “bad” per se, there are some things you can do and should do before you go on a run—to avoid injury and make your run better.
1. What should I eat before a run?
One sure way to end your run quickly or make it uncomfortable is stomach pain and cramping. Given that running does eat up a lot of energy, you do want to do all you can to support your stomach. Here are some ways you can do that—
Eat at least 2 hours before or have something small
Avoid eating a massive meal right before your run, as it’s likely to just make your stomach upset or you feel bloated on your run. Instead, eat at least two hours before. That way you have time to digest. If you do need to eat something quick, grab a banana or a piece of toast or something small.1
Be sure to drink enough water leading up to your run. When you are dehydrated, it can impact your run and how you feel after your run.
Go to the bathroom before
One of the worst feelings on a run is when you realize you have to use the bathroom. To avoid that discomfort, use the bathroom before you leave. If you are going on a really long run, you might want to plan ahead and figure out if you’ll need a restroom and where you can find one on your route.
2. What is the best warm-up before a run?
After handling your nutritional needs, you’ll want to warm up your body before you start. A warmup should be brief enough that you don’t get tired but long enough that your body starts to get warm. For most athletes, this is about 5-10 minutes.
When you think of a warmup, you might think of stretching, but you should avoid static stretching (aka holding a stretch). This is because it’s actually found that static stretching doesn’t help warm up the body and, if anything, isn’t good for running.2 Instead, try an active warmup or active stretches. Like we said, ideally, your body is warm after the warm-up, and movement can help.
To fire up your glutes and quads, take a couple of squats. Lean your weight back in your heels and sit back as if you could sit down on a chair, peek forward and be sure your knees aren’t going past your toes. When you are at your lowest point, stand back up. Repeat.
Place your hands underneath your shoulders, with your body in a perpendicular line. Press through your hands and keep your hips at shoulder height. Pull your core and thighs in. Stay on your toes, or take your knees down. Hold for a couple of breaths.
Step one foot in front of you, bend the knee to stack over your ankle, bend your back knee to stack under your hips, walk forward like this, switching sides as you walk.
Step one foot out to the side and then together. Repeat and switch directions.
Run in a line, and pull your knees up to your chest, trying to get them at least to your hip height as you run.
Run in a line and kick your feet to your butt, alternating them as you run.
3. What do I need to plan before my run?
Then, before you head out on your actual run, make any plans and goals that will help you to get ready to go. Even simple choices like picking a goal for the day, and comfortable clothes to run in, can help make the run more successful.
Try to set one goal for your run! Maybe you want to try to sprint for 30 seconds or beat your last time, or maybe you want to go .25 miles longer, or perhaps it’s simply to keep running the whole time. Whatever it is, set your sights on a goal you can think of.
Put on your (broken-in) running shoes
Be sure you have proper running shoes if you’re new to running. These are different from weight lifting or other sneakers and are designed to help keep your feet and legs safe while running. You also want to be sure your shoes are broken in before you start running.
Choose comfy clothes
Pick a running outfit that you will be comfortable in. Choose something breathable and moveable. Think about what type of top and pant/short combo will be the most comfortable for you to be moving in overtime.
Bonus (but equally important): Have some fun with it!
Lastly, and just as important, once you are ready to go, have some fun with it! Your running is entirely your thing. So whether fun means social, great music, a pretty view, or a fun virtual running experience over a virtual training app, the options are up to you. Whatever you decide to do, your fitness experience is in your hands, so make it fun.
While you might be able to just throw on shoes and go, setting your stomach up for success, warming up, and preparing before you run is likely to make your run and any online fitness experience better. These simple steps help the run feel more comfortable, more fun, and more successful.
It’s no secret that runners are a passionate, dedicated bunch. However- as with anything worth doing – there is always room for improvement! Check out these common mistakes you might be making and how to avoid them!
Key Takeaways:There are many ways you can stay in shape when you are busy and lots of tactics to take. Eating healthy and keeping healthy snacks nearby will help. While exercising and or adding will certainly make a difference as well.
But perhaps our biggest piece of advice is simply to keep going, to try to take small steps each day even when you are busy and want to give up, and to know that a continued commitment will pay off.
- Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Mar;48(3):543-68. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000852. Erratum in: Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Jan;49(1):222. PMID: 26891166.
- Wilson, Jacob M; Hornbuckle, Lyndsey M; Kim, Jeong-Su; Ugrinowitsch, Carlos; Lee, Sang-Rok; Zourdos, Michael C; Sommer, Brian; Panton, Lynn B Effects of Static Stretching on Energy Cost and Running Endurance Performance, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: September 2010 – Volume 24 – Issue 9 – p 2274-2279 doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b22ad6