Family Physician Offers Healthy Tips to Prepare for Your Next Race

By Family Physician Jacob Taylor, DO, MPH

Trinity Health Medical Group Lakeshore Medical Center – Whitehall

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced runner, preparing for any race, involves key practices that will help to keep you fit.

First, keep in mind that nutrition is key. Eating clean, whole foods is important for your body so it may perform at its best. Avoid processed, heavy foods because they can cause fatigue, nausea, and slow you down.

It is equally important to maintain hydration with water. Water, diluted juice, and sports drinks are all good fluid replacers. If you’ve been running for less than an hour, plain water is a good choice, but, if you have been running hard for longer than an hour, drinks containing sugar or maltodextrin (a slow-release carbohydrate) and sodium may speed your recovery.

Drinking before, during, and after training is just as important as drinking during the rest of the day. Plan to aim for about 16 ounces (2 cups) of water at about two hours before you run. Pair this with a snack or meal. About 15 minutes before a run, drink six to eight ounces of water. During a run longer than 1 hour, drink water at regular intervals. This varies according to your sweat rate. Those who sweat more profusely may need 16 ounces every 15 minutes. You’ll also want to consume some carbohydrates and electrolytes along with drinking water. Examples include sports gels and dried fruit. After a run, aim for at least 16 ounces of water with food. Or, if you know your sweat rate, replenish with 20 to 24 ounces per pound lost.

Your Fitness Regimen  

Stretching before and after running is important for both muscle and joint health. Remember to warm up your muscles before stretching. Doing a few minutes of squats, lunges, bicep curls or push-ups will help get blood flowing to the area, allowing you to get a good stretch.

  • A good pre-run stretch should take for about 5-10 minutes.
  • A good post-run stretch should last 10-20 minutes, depending on how long the run took or the distance you ran.

In preparing for a run, plan on running 5 days a week. Each day’s run can vary in length. Incorporating strength or cross training 2-3 days a week is key in strengthening your running ability.

On days when you run only 2-3 miles, I recommend that you do 30 minutes of cross training with weights or resistance bands. I have used foam rollers and find them extremely beneficial. Depending on how tight one’s muscles are, they can be used once a week to daily. 

Other Tips

I have found that yoga complements running extremely well. Whether it’s finding a routine on YouTube or one of the Yoga Channels, or attending a local yoga class, it’s an important practice to consider. Soaking muscles with Epsom salts will help them to soothe and relax. Finally, you know your body best. Honor your body and what it is telling you. Take a rest day once a week.

The bottom line? Honor your body but also challenge yourself. Most of all, have fun.

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