Everyone has a runner friend who never seems to get injured. In a sport where overuse injuries are rampant, how do people stay healthy and what are their secrets? It turns out, there aren’t any big secrets – in fact, it’s the most basic things that keep runners on the road and feeling good. Here’s a look at the six habits of the highly effective runner.
Dehydration is linked to everything from cramping to mid-run GI distress. Especially during the summer months, runners should be sipping (not guzzling) water through the day and monitoring the colour of their urine. Dehydration can easily derail a run, but thankfully, it’s also an easy fix.
Appreciate the rest day
Some runners take weekly rest days, some work on a 10-day cycle and others are spontaneous with their day off. Running is highly individual, so it’ll take some trial and error to find out what works for you.
If you’re new to the sport, taking multiple rest days a week is recommended. Slowly work your way up to running six days a week. But if you’re feeling a little run down and tired, no matter your experience level, take the day off. Your body and mind will thank you.
Listen to your body
Your body will let you know when it’s hurting. While there are some small aches and pains that can be run through, a nagging issue isn’t to be ignored. If something is bothering you two runs in a row, consider a couple of cross-training days and booking in to see an RMT, physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor.
Runners who stay injury-free for years on end know that when something flares up, a couple days off here and there is much better than two months on the sidelines.
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Get the right shoes
Taking the time to buy the right shoes is extremely important. Especially if you’re new to the sport, getting a proper assessment is a great idea for your first pair. After that, keep track of how much mileage you’ve done in your shoes (you can use an app like Strava or just a good old-fashioned training log). Once you’ve hit over 400K, it’s time to start looking for a new pair.
RELATED: 5 signs you need new running shoes
Napping is a luxury, especially for runners with children. However, if you can sneak in even a 20 minute snooze on a weekend, or sleep a little later in the morning, over time these few extra minutes of rest can play a big role in your recovery. A study out of The Institute for Scholastic Sport Science and Medicine found that in adolescent student-athletes (grade seven to 12), getting under eight hours of sleep led to a 70 per cent increase in the likelihood of injury.
Sleeping is kind of like natural doping for runners, so where possible, sneak in a few extra hours of rest. Canadian W50 marathon record holder Denise Robson thinks her big breakthrough was due to the amount of sleep she was able to get during her build. “I have three biological children and four foster children. Now that my foster children are gone, there are more hours in the day. I was able to come home after a Sunday long run, shower, eat and take a two- to three-hour nap. That made a huge difference in training.”
RELATED: What Denise Robson eats in a day
Keep it consistent
Improving at running (and staying injury free) is really a game of consistency. The more days (which can hopefully turn into months and years) of pain-free running you can string together, the better you will get. By paying attention to the little things listed above, you’re drastically increasing your likelihood of consistency.