Whether you’re a marathoner, sprinter, 5K “fun runner”, or one of those people who crush a 1/2 mile then head to happy hour, you can’t deny that the ahhh-mazing weather this time of year brings out the Kenyan (not to be confused with Kanye) in all of us.
But sometimes you need more motivation than the weather to make your run easier and/or more comfortable, so here are my top 10 tips and must-haves for a kickass running season.
1. Shoes. This should be a no-brainer, but if nothing else, PLEASE invest in a good pair of running shoes. Find a specialty store that helps you get the right fit for your arches and the way your foot strikes the ground, and don’t be afraid to be high-maintenance in the store. (Note from Ashley: If you don’t feel like you have enough arch support, keep trying pairs until you find “The One” or you could get injured. I know from experience.) Good shoes make ALL the difference and they are at the top of my list as a necessity for an injury-free running season. I usually run in Asics, but if you have a narrow foot (like Ashley), Nikes are top-notch. There are so many great shoes and brands out there (Saucony, Mizuno, Brooks, Newton, etc.) so find what works for you and your precious feet.
2. Quality clothes that FIT. On the gear front, I am a huge believer in supportive, lightweight, and high-quality fitness attire you feel (and look) good in. There is nothing worse than digging baggy shorts out of your butt crack every three steps or the discomfort of an unsupportive sports bra (not to mention the droopy boob factor). Go for the good stuff and take care of it; just having it makes you feel the need to use it, and that’s what I call a cheap personal trainer! If you’re anti expensive gear, just buy ONE nice pair of running pants and a good sports bra, and see if you can feel the difference. In Atlanta, we love Atlanta Activewear and DEKA for brands like Rese, MPG, Splits59, etc., and of course, Lulu. And there ain’t nothing wrong with Under Armour either.
3. Music. This much is obvious, but if you don’t have good jams, you’re likely to lose motivation mid-run. Find a playlist you like (we got plenty of those, honey) before you walk out the door so you’re not skipping around on your iPod/phone, and you’ll be excited to sweat to it.
4. Friends. If you love to run, but also enjoy the camaraderie and energy of group fitness (like me!), recruit a pal or two to run with you regardless if your paces are the same. Set out your route beforehand, and run at your own pace or beside each other. However, the less talking the better for more calorie burn. If you need music to get going, here’s a tip: Pick the same playlist (that’s why we love Spotify), push start at the same time, and VOILA, you have a group fitness class of your own!
5. Fuel. For optimal performance, eat at least an hour before your run. Try a banana and some almonds or an apple and peanut butter, NOT a bagel with cream cheese. If you had a healthy, substantial meal a couple hours before, that should get you through your trek just fine. And I suggest eating within two hours after. (More on pre- and post-workout foods HERE.)
6. Water. It’s SO important to hydrate when you’re sweating. Drink about 6-8 ounces of room temperature H2O (gets to your system faster) before and after your run and you’ll be good to go (unless you’re seriously dehydrated from a wild night before, and then you might want to up the amount). If you’re going for longer than 45-60 minutes, find a water stop along the way or have aqua with you via belt or bottle.
7. Stretch. We know some of you neglect proper stretching, but it’s only going to lead to pain and injuries down the road, so listen to me on this one (Love, Mom.) Post-run is the best time to stretch while your muscles are warm and loose, so spend at least 5-10 minutes stretching your hamstrings, hips, calves, and quads before letting them cool down and tighten up on you. If you feel knee pain after a run, really stretch your IT Band. And ALWAYS listen to your body–if you feel pain more than just soreness, ice the area/see a doc/address it before it gets worse.
8. Goals. There are lots of intentions you can set. Sign up for a race that’s longer than the average distance you run so you have motivation to train. Keep trying to beat your personal best time. Tell yourself if you run X number of miles in a month or hit a certain time, you’ll buy a gift for yourself (or take a trip!). Or just keep that occasion in mind you want to look smokin’ hot for: Wedding, high school reunion, potential run-in with the ex…
9. Track it. Use an app, heart rate monitor, or both, and track your route, time, pace, and calories burned. It is so motivating and you can even share it with friends to have a virtual run club and hold each other accountable. I use Runkeeper, but there are several out there. MapMyRun is a great way to plan a route ahead of time. I also use a heart rate monitor (everything you need to know HERE) and they sync, so I know I’m getting the most customized data summary.
10. Cross training. Strength training, cycling, and yoga are killer ways to build speed and endurance for your runs. It’s incredible what core strengthening and lower body weight training (even just squats, lunges, etc.) can do for your running. Also, hitting the pavement every single day is not great for the knees and leads to more injuries, so mix it up and watch your pace, distance, and body improve faster!
See you on the street!