The 4 Part Guide to Running
There are 4 Aspects to Running
Congratulations! If you are reading this article, chances are that you understand that running goes beyond lacing up your shoes and heading out the door. As we like to say, there is more to running than running. And as Sir Francis Bacon once stated in his work – “Knowledge is Power” – and this applies to you, even if you are not a serious runner!
We are firm believers that 4 aspects to running, and that to run successfully (and you are the master of defining what successful means to you), you have to ensure that all of these aspects are taken care of.
These for aspects are (1) the physical act of running, (2) nutrition, (3) the mental part of running, and (4) injury prevention.
So let's dive into these:
1. The Physical Aspect of Running
The statement “all you need for running is a pair of running shoes” might be true or might not be true. Like with anything else in life, many factors come into play. Our answer to the validity of the statement would be ‘depends.’
It depends on what your goal is. Are you trying to run every once in a while? Are you trying to run regularly but only for short bouts at the gym or during your cross-fit session?
But – since you are on this page – if we are under the assumption that you want to become a runner or maybe marathoner, then the answer is wrong.
If you are trying to become a regular runner, you must ask yourself many questions: What is your current fitness level? Were you a runner in the past? What is a realistic goal for you? How much time are you willing to dedicate to running? What sort of gear do you need? And these are just a few of them.
Next, you need to figure out a good training plan that fits your schedule (or that you can make fit into your lifestyle, since becoming a runner is actually a lifestyle change) as well as your goals. Remember progress is made in small leaps, so be patient with yourself.
For me, the subject of nutrition for runners has been one of the most difficult ones to tackle, simply because there is as much contradictory information out there as there are fad diets.
As of right now, Keto is one of the most popular “diets,” and while we are sure that it works (scientifically, it makes sense) as runners we are looking for a “lifestyle” that works best for runners that want to feel fresh and run strong (and even within those of us that have this goal there are variations i.e. not every runner has the same body composition or runs the same weekly mileage etc.)
Carbohydrates are fuel for runners
In order to have a positive running experience it is important to understand that carbohydrates are fuel for runners. Nevertheless as runners we have many more questions such as should we eat before we run, should we eat during runs, and what about after runs? Also, what should we eat, and how much of it? What about race fueling? What about hydration?
Let’s break down a little bit of what we have learned from talking to many books, nutritionists and registered dietitians is the following:
Muscle cells have two sources of fuel: sugar (from carbs) and fat, which come from either the food we eat or from what we have already stored in our bodies.
When we eat carbs, they are broken down into simple glucose (simple sugar), which circulates in the bloodstream and powers your cells. The glucose that is not immediately needed is stored as glycogen, in muscles and liver. When we run, we use this sugar from the bloodstream, and after we have exhausted that, we use the stored glycogen. According to Dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, about 50% to 70% of your diet should be carbohydrates from healthy sources. Healthy sources are also important when it comes to your protein intake.
The fat we consume also is used during endurance exercise, but it is less immediately available for fuel, due to the fact that it has to be broken down into fatty acids before it can be used by the muscles as fuels. Stored body fat, however, is a great source for fueling because we all have it.
Your protein intake, on the other hand helps build and repair muscle tissue. The right amount of protein promotes muscle growth, especially when you do strength training.
Last but not least, staying hydrated is also important, because as your muscles generate heat, your body needs to get rid of that heat to maintain a normal temperature, and it does so through sweating. Sweating in turn reduces your body’s water level, and this loss of fluid needs to be replenished during and after your activity.
Want to learn more about fueling your body when you start running? Below you will find our full Episode 38 interview with Serena Marie, RD, who coaches runners on a daily basis.
3. Mental Training
You may have heard the sentence that “running is 90% mental,” and we can assure you that there is a lot of truth to it. In fact, having a mind block is can be what is keeping us from sometimes even head out of the door. For example, imagine those early mornings where your bed is warm and it’s cold outside. How many excuses are you able to come up with? Your mind will tell you all of them: It’s too cold outside, you didn’t get enough sleep, you can just run later during the day, you don’t need to run this badly… Having a block can be hard to overcome.
In addition to that, while running, running exhaustion can often be mental rather than physical, as your mind will give up before your body does. Your brain subconsciously alerts your muscles to slow down, causing you to think that you can no longer run.
But the good news is (again, power is knowledge) that now that you are aware of this, there are things you can practice doing during your training that can help you stay positive and continue running without giving into those thoughts.
How to achieve mental toughness
You can try to silence your mind. This is particularly true for those of us that run in the mornings. Go to bed knowing that – when the morning comes – your brain will come up with excuses, and make the conscious decision to ignore it. Yes, this is playing mind games, and the more you do it, the easier it gets. Also, during runs, you can try and disassociate your thoughts from pain. Ask yourself if you are really in pain or if you are just ‘sick of running.’ During long runs or race-day, break your distance up into chunks. Select your music carefully to ensure that it motivates you. And of course, don’t forget what you learned about nutrition, which can help you avoid feeling depleted. Isn’t it nice how these aspects of running, again, go hand-in-hand together?
Below you will find our full Episode 39 interview with Jill Angie, of Not Your Average Runner. She has some great tips about how to get into the right headspace when it comes to running.
4. Injury Prevention
‘The odds of something happening at least once, do increase with repetition.’ Hence, the more we run, the higher are our chances of getting injured. Unless, of course, we bring this probability down by being aware and proactive with our injury prevention.
Most common running injuries
Some of the most common running injuries include tendonitis (inflamed tendons) of the knee, ankle and foot, achilles tendon strain, and stress fractures of the tibia, fibula (shin and calf bones), hip and pelvis.
How do we incur such injuries? There are many reasons runners get injured, ranging from the freak accident of rolling your ankle to running too much too soon. One can also get injured when not being careful by running too much too soon on the “wrong” terrain (i.e. when switching from treadmill to road-running), or due to the lack of cross training (which you will learn is pertinent to strengthening our body.) Injuries also occur due to high body weight, incorrect running technique, lack of adequate recovery (your body needs to repair itself), or stretching incorrectly (-and be careful to taking any advice on stretching with a grain of salt as there is reason to believe that stretching doesn’t really help you… more to follow.
There are many things one can do to prevent injuries, the first step being awareness, and the second, third, fourth and fifths steps being proactive (strenght training, the right fueling, and listening to your body).
Below you will find our full Episode 40 interview with Australian physiotherapist and expert, Brodie Sharpe, who has some great tips on how to prevent injuries from creeping up.
What Say You?
We’d love to read about your approach to running. Is your mental game as strong as your physical game? Are you doing everything possible when it comes to nutrition to get the max out of your runs? Please share in the comments.