Calling all runners! Want to choose the best fuel for your performance? Here’s a top five hit list.
The fiber in oatmeal helps prevent spikes in blood sugar, giving you energy evenly and consistently–a must for longer distance runs. Oats also tend to be pretty easy on the tummy, another important quality in a pre-workout meal.
A huge part of running comes as soon as the run is over. Eating protein for recovery is vital to replenish energy stores and repair worn out muscles. Greek yogurt is high in protein, plus it has calcium to maintain strong bones.
Hungry before your run but don’t want anything that will weigh you down? Grab a banana for a balance of energy-producing carbs and B-vitamins, plus potassium and magnesium for active muscles.
This fabulous protein option comes chocked full of omega-3 fats. The heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats benefit cardiovascular health and fight inflammation. Just about all runners will tell you they’re no stranger to swollen and achy muscles and joints.
One of the best recovery foods you can find, chocolate milk offers carbs and protein, plus fluid, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes–everything your body is looking for after a run.
How to Transform Your Running Form with One Single Exercise
It’s easy to think that only complicated strength training exercise plans will improve performance and strength, however this little one-legged wonder (the Single Leg Stance) can make real change in a matter of days.
The single leg balance activates and strengthens your stabilizing muscles from your feet and ankles all the way up to your hips and improves your balance too! If you sit all day like most of us do, that deactivates your gluteal muscles which stabilize as you run stride for stride. When these muscles atrophy (decrease strength and stability) they no longer engage and support your leg and hip as your foot lands on the ground. It has a ripple effect in translating to wasted energy as your hips move side to side and increases the friction in your ITB (Iliotibial Band).
A simple exercise like this can be done anywhere, in any shoes (okay maybe not the pumps girls) and effectively strengthens those hip stabilizers so they engage and support your hip and translate to efficient forward (versus lateral) motion and no ITB friction!
While you’re at it, next time you’re out for a run scan runners to see if they’re hips are moving side to side or not at all. Seeing the difference between stabilized and weak hips can help visualize what is going on in your own body.
Try it for yourself (now if you’d like):
Stand up with your feet hip width apart.
Keep your arms out to your sides for balance.
Lift your left leg a few inches off the floor and hold for 30-60 seconds.
Engage your hip muscles to create a long, neutral line up your body. If this is confusing – try letting your hip relax out to the side and then tighten and contract it to align it under your shoulders – this is also another great exercise hip huggers.
Repeat 2-4 times on each side. You will feel all the muscles in your foot, ankle and hip fatiguing in seconds!
When this is easy progress to wearing no shoes.
When that gets easy stand barefoot on a towel, pillow or pad to further challenge the muscles and balance. If you get to SuperStar status, close your eyes (very hard).
It’s simple. It’s effective. And it’s kind of fun.
Lots of people start running in their 30s or older, and it is one of the few sports in which you can improve with age – and even progress to elite level
‘Age is far less of a barrier to improvement in running than it is in other sports.’ Photograph: Gary Sludden/Getty Images
For many people reminiscing about their childhood sporting memories, the first activity that springs to mind is the dreaded cross-country run. Images of cold, wet days spent slogging around muddy fields; the sound of sadistic PE teachers barking instructions still ringing in the ear. These are not fond memories. Indeed, running was, and still is, frequently viewed as a punishment; the sort of thing that no child in their right mind would want to do voluntarily, let alone enjoy.
One of the ironies of the current boom in participation is that while unprecedented numbers of people are taking up running, many of these people are in their 30s or above. It was hoped that the 2012 Olympics would “inspire a generation” – but it wasn’t really part of the plan for that generation to be aged 30-60. Recent reports suggest that child fitness levels still aren’t what they should be, with nearly half of all children not taking the government’s recommended one hour of exercise a day.
Although any new runners are fairly good news for public health officials, the age profile of the current crop means they are less likely to make inroads into the thorny issue of running “standards”. It has been well documented that times are generally slower now than they were in the 80s, but the fact that runners are starting older doesn’t always mean that they can’t pop up at the sharp end of races.
Running is one of the few sports at which it is possible, albeit with a lot of hard work and a bundle of talent, to progress to elite status despite only taking it up in your 30s. One of the best examples is the great Jack Foster, the Liverpool-born New Zealander and self-styled “ancient marathoner”, who pulled on a pair of trainers for the first time at the age of 32 and by age 40 found himself running 2:11 for the marathon, picking up a silver medal for his efforts at the Christchurch Commonwealth Games in 1974.
At a slightly lower level, Welshman Martin Rees this year became the proud holder of the age 60 World Best times for the half marathon (71:30) and 10km (32:54), after a glorious couple of decades during which heas run incredible times over a full range of distances from 5k (14:20) to the marathon (2:23). He only took up the sport in his late 30s and soon got the running bug.
Of course, while we all may hold secret hopes of uncovering an latent talent, most of us are unlikely to progress to the very front of the pack. But the exploits of the likes of Foster and Rees are relevant to all of us, whether we like to race on a weekend or prefer to battle our own limitations on solitary excursions through the countryside.
The message is that age is far less of a barrier to improvement in running than it is in other sports. While the amateur footballer is confronted, aged 40, with his or her place in the team being given to the latest young talent, the amateur runner is often just getting going.
With running, especially if taken up later in life without any previous experience, it really is realistic to expect to improve with age – albeit with some upper limit, though Rees seems to be getting faster and faster. It is this expectation that can ensure the motivation to continue remains well into our senior years.
Who knows where it will take you? The never-ending setting of targets and the tangible results keep us coming back for more and more.