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Nutrition Hacks and Tips for Runners

Whether you are a brand new runner or training for your next marathon, the food you eat can contribute to your success and overall fitness.

We are what we eat, and our food is not just fun, it is fuel to keep us going throughout our busy day and during each workout. Therefore, choosing the right fuel can make all the difference between a full tank and running on empty, and between high performance and a clogged engine.

Here are a few nutrition hack and tips for runners to keep you well-fed and fueled for optimal performance.

Cut the sugar

It may give you sugar highs but can’t sustain you during a race and has little nutritional value.

Choose ‘slow carb’

Some argue that carbohydrates or carbs keep you fueled with the energy you need, but as with sugary food, not all carbs are created equal. Choose slow carbs that take a while for the body to digest, such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and whole-grain bread and breakfast cereal in small amounts. Add oats to your diet and try quinoa as well, actually a little seed which is packed full of nutrition.

Go for fiber

Fiber help you feel full longer. The carbs discussed above are all good choices.  So are fruits and vegetables, also good sources of hydration.

Watch your protein

Protein is essential for healing and repairing the body after a strenuous workout. Lean sources of protein include salmon, beans like kidney beans, and legumes like brown lentils. You can also get it in tofu, soy protein, which can be eaten in solid form or drunk as soy milk.

Add nuts to your diet

A lot of people steer clear of nuts because they are high in fat. However, they are also high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats that can reduce cholesterol. They also have protein and are quite filling.  Almonds are one of the best nuts for lowering cholesterol and can be eaten as is or ground up for almond flour, low in carbs, and almond milk, a refreshing alternative to soy milk or cow milk.

Peanut butter is a cheap and easy snack you can take anywhere with crackers, veggie sticks or apple slices.

Nuts and dried fruits like raisins, cherries and diced prunes, are perfect for your own homemade trail mix. Add a sprinkle of high-quality dark chocolate chips for the perfect post-workout snack.

Pay attention to your diet and see how much better you start to run.

Running On a Treadmill: Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Running on a treadmill can be a great way to keep running no matter what the weather, or working out from the comfort of your own home. However, there are a number of common mistakes even experienced runners make when they are running on a treadmill.  Here are a few of the main ones to watch out for.

Skipping warm ups and cool down

If you are going to work your muscles, you need to do these if you wish to avoid injury. Stopping suddenly on the treadmill can also lead to dizziness and injury from falling off.

Poor running form

People nervous about falling off treadmills tend to change their form. You need to run the same way both indoors and outdoors in order to avoid injury.  Your legs should swing back easily and not go ahead of you.  Also watch out for heel strikes and overstriding, which can cause injury because the treadmill belt is moving. Your foot landing in front on the moving belt is like slamming on the brakes as you run, leading to wear and tear on knees and hips.

Holding onto the rails

This causes tension in the arms and upper body, and the arms being in this fixed position means they are not swinging forward to help you with your momentum as you run. It also makes you bend or hunch forward, which can cause problems with knee, lower back and shoulder pain. Use the same form as you would running outdoors. If you are worried about falling, reduce your pace or incline.

Not working out fully

Holding onto the handrails actually makes your workout easier. If you also read a book or magazine while you are on a treadmill, you’re not working hard enough to get the full benefit of the exercise. Not every run has to be a long or hard one, but they don’t all have to be easy ones either.

Stepping Off While Moving

This is one of the main causes of injury. Be sure you have everything you need, water, towel and so on, before getting on.

Running at the Same Pace and Incline for Your Entire Run

Change speed and incline every so often to keep you on your toes and give you a more realistic workout such as you would do outside. Too steep an incline for too long can also cause injuries.  Aim for 5 minutes maximum and keep it from 4 to 6% to protect your joints.

The Importance of Good Running Shoes for Your Workouts

One of the best ways to stay safe when working out is to wear the right kind of shoe for the activity you are engaging in. Running is a cheap way to get fit, that burns a lot of calories, but it is high-impact, which means the right running shoes are a must.

Investing in a supportive running shoe suited to your feet can help you to prevent foot and ankle damage and other injuries, and make your workout an enjoyable one instead of a torture session.

The essentials in a running shoe

Not all sports shoes are created equal. There are ones for almost every purpose you can think of, such as walking, cross-training and running. Proper running shoes need to have good cushioned and shock-absorption where the foot strikes the ground. If you’ve ever tried to run in dress shoes, you know how painful it can be, and how quickly.

There are many different brands of running shoes, at a range of price points. Most expensive doesn’t mean best.

First, put on clean socks of the type you usually wear for working out. Avoid thick tube socks, however, as the cotton does not wick away moisture, gets soggy, and can cause blisters.

Shop for your shoes at the end of the day when your feet will be most swollen. Go into a store that specializes in running shoes if you have one near you, and get both feet measured. Also look at the arch in your foot. Some people have non arch, that is, flat feet, and others have high arches that need to be supported.

The salesperson should be able to make recommendations based on what they see. Try on both shoes. Don’t be afraid to walk around in them, and test them for flexibility. You should be able to bend them, otherwise they are too stiff and could cause injury, but they should not be too flexible, or else they will not be supportive enough.

Check the fit in the toe area. You should have at least half an inch at the front to wiggle your big toe, or else you could get black toenails from bruising as your toes slide up and down in the shoe.

Choosing a proper shoe can help to protect you against common injuries associated with running, so be sure to try them on in person, or shop at an online store with free shipping in both directions.

Running and Breathing Correctly

Running is an aerobic exercise that keeps your heart muscle healthy. It also improves circulation and respiration IF you breathe correctly when working out.

Go to any running website and you will probably see all sorts of information on how to breathe correctly, much of it contradictory or just plain weird.

Here are the essentials on breathing the right way while running.

Always breathe in and out primarily through your mouth

This helps convey the oxygen your muscles need to perform well while you are running.

Avoid throat breathing

Throat breathing is letting the air in and out in short gasps. It is not a good way to breathe for a number of reasons. The first is, it isn’t oxygen-efficient. The second is that it does not fully clear your lungs. Short gasps can also lead to hyperventilation and fainting.

Do deep belly breathing

As the name suggests, deep belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is a stronger form of breathing, in which the entire belly and ribcage expand with each breath and the muscles of the entire chest and abs exhale fully, clearing the lungs completely.  Deep belly breathing is often encountered in yoga as a way to take in oxygen-rich air and exhale stale air and other impurities from the body.

Sit on a yoga mat or in a chair and practice long deep breathing a couple of times a day. Do it through the mouth and feel your abdominal area expand like a balloon, then contract. Use your muscles deliberately to expel the stale air from the bottom of your lungs.

Practicing in this way will make this style of breathing come more naturally to you so that you won’t need to think about it so much when you go out running.

Train your torso

Deep breathing exercises will help make the breathing more natural, but you can also train your muscles. Take in as deep a breath as possible, hold, then sip in 3 to 5 more little sniffs of breath until you can feel your chest expand from your waist all the way up to your collar bones. Sip in a few more times if you can manage, and then let it out in a controlled manner until it is time to take another breath.

You can also keep breathing out until your lungs feel like there is no air in them. Hold for 5 seconds, and then start to breathe again. This kind of muscle control improves breathing, which in turn boosts endurance.

Running When You Are Overweight

 

Running is one of the fastest ways to burn calories and requires little special equipment other than a good pair of running shoes.  Those who are overweight might be tempted to start running in order to slim down.

However, there are a few smart steps they should take in order to avoid becoming injured and putting themselves on the bench before they ever really get started with their running program.

Check with your doctor to be sure you are well enough to run

Weigh yourself, check your Body Mass Index, and make sure your knees and joints are healthy enough to run.

Set goals

How much weight do you want to lose? What is your ideal BMI? Note down your results and start to track your progress in a keep fit diary.

Buy the right shoes

If you haven’t been off the couch for a while, invest in a comfortable pair of supportive sneakers designed for running.

Start slowly with a walking program

Invest in a pedometer and wear it for a week to find out just how active you are. Then start adding steps to your routine, to reach the 10,000 steps per day recommended by the US Surgeon General as being the best way to work out for all healthy adults who want to keep fit.

Add running intervals

As you work your way up to your 10,000 steps, add a couple of short runs to your routine. Run for 30 seconds, or for half a block, then resume normal pace.

Take the breath test

As you walk or run, if you can talk easily, you are not going fast enough. If you can’t catch your breath, you are going too fast. The breath test will determine if you can talk, but not easily enough to carry on a full conversation.

Watch your joints

Walking is a weight-bearing exercise that can build muscle and bone. Running is a high-impact exercise that can jolt your joints if you are not careful. Some researchers estimate that for every 1 pound you are overweight, you are putting an extra 4 to 8 pounds of pressure on your knees when walking/stepping down and when running. Don’t forget to stretch before and after each session to warm up and cool down the muscles.

Watch your form

Your running form should be head up, chest out, nothing slouching over your hips. Your knees should be low, not pumping up towards your chest.  Your arms should swing naturally to propel you forward.

Use these steps to keep you safe if you are overweight and wish to run to keep fit.

 

Running to Lose Weight

Running burns the most calories of any mainstream exercise, so it is no wonder that many people who wish to lose weight decide that they want to start a running program.

However, as with all new exercise routines, there are a number of considerations to keep you safe and help you get the most out of your workout. If you work in a sedentary job at a computer all day and sit on the couch watching TV most of the night, you’ll need to take special care of yourself in order to avoid injury and achieve your goals.

Here are a few starter steps for beginner runners who want to lose weight.

Weigh yourself and calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI).

Determine what is a healthy BMI for your height and frame. Choose a target weight from within that BMI number.

Start a running diary. Note down your weight and BMI, and your goals. Track your goals by weighing yourself once a week.

Start a walking program. Get off the couch and get moving. Aim for 10,000 steps a day.

Master a few warm up and cool down stretches to take care of your muscles and avoid injury.

Don’t try to do too much too soon. Walking longer and longer distances at faster and faster speeds will be plenty to start with to get your body ready for the more demanding pace and impact of running.

Count your calories. There’s no point trying to run off the weight if you’re eating excess calories every day.

Be consistent. Work out every day, even if it is for a short time only.

Add running to your walks. Once you are at 10,000 steps a day (3.5 to 5 miles depending on your stride), start to add short runs of a block or so to the routine, until you are able to run more and more of the route.

Keep track of your progress in your diary. Adjust your routine as needed. You may find your weight creeping up a little, but this could be due to your developing more muscles. Sooner or later, they will become lean, mean, fat-burning machines, because lean muscle boosts your metabolism compared with fat.

Add strength training twice a week

This can be yoga, light weights, or resistance bands. This will build muscle and add to your endurance and stamina.

Follow these steps and you will be certain to lose weight and look great thanks to your new running program.