Over the last couple of months, my runs haven’t felt great. They’ve been slow, sluggish and greatly lacking in the va-va-voom factor! This has affected my enthusiasm for running and although I keep going, I don’t get excited before a run and often feel frustrated afterwards.
I briefly mentioned this in my last post and concluded that it must be mental exhaustion from a very tumultuous year. But since then, I’ve introspected a bit more and if I’m completely honest… I’ve not been taking care of myself as I should be. I keep asking my body to churn out weekly 20km long runs without nurturing it the way I should be. I don’t sleep enough. I don’t eat right. I hardly drink water. And my idea of recovery is a cappuccino. It’s time for me to get back to basics. If you’re having similar struggles, this may be something you need to hear too.
1/ Sleep More. When my kids were younger, I longed for time alone so once they were in bed, I would sit on the couch and do… well, nothing much! But it would satisfy that craving of being alone for a bit. My kids are more independent now but this habit has continued. But the truth is, I can’t expect to run well with such limited sleep. I didn’t have to go very far to find research to support this. This article highlights that “A common side effect in many studies has been that runners have a higher perception of effort for a given level of exercise. In other words, lack of sleep makes everything seem harder — especially running.” It’s time for me to set a more consistent (and earlier) bedtime routine that allows me to wake up easier and enjoy my runs in the mornings. Are you getting enough sleep to ensure optimal running performance?
2/ Eat Better. I’m doing a lot of big runs and I’ve developed a terrible habit of simply eating more chocolate or crisps the day before a long run as “fuel”. This goes against everything I know I should be doing. Last year guest blogger Naѐma wrote a great post about the importance of nutrition when marathon training (and running in general). She highlighted some of the key points we should consider including ensuring the right carbohydrate-protein mix, being mindful of runger tendencies and ensuring effective pre- and post-run fuelling. I will need to work on ensuring that my runs are fuelled by good food and are not just an excuse to eat all the junk. I know this is a huge contributor to my sluggish runs. Do you take shortcuts when it comes to good nutrition? Are you fuelling yourself with good wholesome food?
3/ Drink More Water. This is such an obvious one but something I’ve never been any good at. I think I’ve gotten away with it for a long time but with my increased mileage my body is finally telling me something has to change. In Naѐma’s guest post she eloquently stated that even a 2% dehydration can affect your body’s ability to perform. This is why “it is so important to stay hydrated, replenishing water and electrolytes throughout the day and most especially during and after those longer runs.” While on the run, I’m good at hydrating, it’s all the other times that I really need to work on. Are you staying hydrated before, during and after your runs?
4/ Have An Active Recovery Routine. My idea of recovery is to slump on the couch after a long run and sip on a well-earned cappuccino. That’s great but it often means I do very little stretching, foam rolling or walking to ease out the muscles. This Healthline article highlights that “active recovery is often considered more beneficial than inactivity, resting completely or sitting. It can keep blood flowing and help muscles recover and rebuild from intense physical activity.” The article highlights that active recovery helps to reduce lactic acid build-up in muscles, eliminate toxins, keep muscles flexible and reduce soreness which all help you maintain your exercise routine. Are you incorporating an active recovery routine after your runs?
How often do we hear that we need to listen to our bodies? Well, mine has been talking to me for a while now and I haven’t been listening. Instead, I’ve kept asking my body to hit out 50+ km weeks without doing much to take care of it so that it works and performs as it should. And when it doesn’t… I’m the first to complain! Of course, I realise these may not be the only factors contributing to my poor runs – but these are all glaring (and dangerous) omissions on my part. Thinking about the basics was a big eye-opener for me and I hope you also found this useful!
Are you listening to your body? Do you find yourself taking shortcuts in these areas too? What are some useful strategies you’ve found help in these areas?
I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, and Laura Norris Running! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.