Scarfing down a huge burger and fries: not the best idea before a jog. But chances are, you already knew that one.
From messing up your pre-workout snack to your warm-up routine, a few pre-run mistakes are very likely undermining your running workouts and results. Read on to learn the six things you should never do before a run — and start having better, funner runs.
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1. Static Stretching
Warming up before a run is a non-negotiable. But holding stretches for 30 seconds to a minute at a time, also known as static stretching, before your workouts probably does more harm than good, according to California-based physical therapist Brad Whitley, DPT.
In theory, stretching should warm your muscles, preparing them for the miles ahead, according to Harvard Health Publishing. But in reality, static stretching while your muscles are still cold and tight can put you at higher risk of injury and won't do much to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness.
Dynamic warm-up exercises are the way to go, Whitley says. These movement-based stretches promote blood flow to your muscles, moving your joints in multiple directions and ranges of motion. Walking lunges and hip circles are just a few of the best stretches before running.
2. Eating a Lot of Fiber
Want to know the real reason beans make you toot? They're full of fiber. Found in a lot of plant foods, fiber is a carbohydrate that your body can't actually digest.
Although the benefits of fiber include warding off hunger and keeping your blood sugar levels stable, eating a bunch of vegetables right before a run can cause gas or gastrointestinal issues, Whitley says. The last thing you want to do mid-mile is stop for a bathroom break — that is, if there are any bathrooms on your route.
Before a run, opt for easily digestible carb sources like granola bars, oatmeal or a banana, he says. These can help give you the energy you need for your workout without the unwanted stomach issues.
3. Hitting the Gym Too Hard
When you have a long run planned, hitting the squat rack right before isn't a great idea. "Doing heavy squats, lunges or deadlifts prior to running leaves you feeling fatigued, lethargic and with heavy legs," Whitley says.
That's because, when you eat carbs, your muscles store them as glycogen for energy, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). But when you lift weights directly before running, your body doesn't have much glycogen left to fuel your run.
Schedule your runs and strength training sessions on different days. Or, if you're committed to running and strength training on the same day, only go hard during one of your two activities. If you're running hard, lift easy.
4. Overloading on Carbs
As you've already read, your body relies on carbs for energy during your runs. But that doesn't mean you should gorge on pasta in hopes of a stronger workout, Whitley says. While carb-loading is a strategy some runners use before long endurance events (like a marathon or triathlon), it's unnecessary for an everyday run.
Taking on too many carbs, especially right before a run, can also make you feel fatigued. What's because, when you eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar spikes, giving you an initial jolt of energy, according to Harvard Health Publishing. But when your blood sugar crashes, your energy drops and you start feeling sluggish — not what you want during a sprint session.
Eat 40 to 60 grams of easily-digestible carbohydrates (about a cup of oatmeal and a banana) roughly 30 to 60 minutes before your run, Whitley recommends.
5. Skipping Your Warm-Up
Not everyone can devote an hour or two to exercise each day. But skipping your warm-up to make more time for your run is a big pre-run mistake.
Running through a dynamic warm-up routine before any kind of exercise is crucial if you want to perform at your best, according to the Mayo Clinic. It may even help reduce muscle soreness and minimize your risk of injury.
Warming up before you exercise also gives your heart and blood vessels a chance to ease into exercise.
Devote the first 5 minutes of every running workout to your warm-up routine. This can be as simple as cycling on a stationary bike or moving through a few dynamic hip stretches like a glute bridge or hamstring scoop.
6. Drinking Too Much (or Too Little) Water
Even if you're feeling a little parched, resist the pre-run mistake of chugging a water bottle right before your run. "Trying to make up for dehydration in the hour prior to running can lead to that dreaded sloshy feeling in your stomach and call for a mid-run bathroom stop," Whitley says.
At the same time, you don't want to restrict fluids, either. Dehydration effects include muscle cramps and fatigue during exercise, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Try to drink about half your body weight in ounces throughout the day, Whitley says. A good guideline is to look into your toilet after you pee. Ideally, your urine should be a light yellow color.