If you follow me on Facebook or IG you know I caught the running bug this year. I finished my first half marathon in under two hours and managed to log 13-20 mile runs four weeks in a row without injury. This is a huge change for me. Before this year I’d never managed to get more than 5 miles without pain. I credit my improvement to working on my ankle mobility, having my gait analyzed and spending just five minutes prepping my body to run with this simple, effective warm up routine. Check it out along with 14 of my other best running tips.
Best Warm and Cool Down Up for a Run
Most PTs and mobility experts agree now that it’s most effective to foam roll AFTER your run and to warm up with a few correctives and activation drills and a brisk walk or light jog for a few minutes below your target pace. If you know that foam rolling and stretching before you run is best for your body, definitely keep doing what works. After your run you should definitely foam roll for a few minutes on your tightest muscles like your quads, calves and glutes. This will leave you in better, more mobile shape for your next run and help avoid issues like plantar fasciitis, shin splints and joint pain.
Here’s what I recommend to warm up.
Roll the bottoms of each foot for 60-90s.
Check out this post for the skinny on why this is SO IMPORTANT.
Banded side steps for 1m. (Here is a link to the band I use.)
Get low in “athletic position” (i.e. hips back and knees slightly bent as though you’re about to shoot a basketball), internally rotate your legs so you “lead with your heels”, always keep ~6-8 inches between your feet (i.e. don’t bring your feet all the way together) and don’t let your feet drag on the floor.
Banded glute bridges for 1m.
Extend through the hips, but don’t arch your back. You should feel this in your booty and hamstrings.
Active straight leg raises with a yoga strap x 10 each side.
Using a yoga strap around your heel use your own strength to raise your leg (keeping it as straight as you can) and when you reach the end point give the strap a tug to stretch the hamstrings and calves for ~3s. Your other leg should remain internally rotated and still (toe flexed toward your face and pointing straight up; don’t let it roll out to the side). So while you are stretching your moving leg you are practicing controlling your still leg to keep it in the right position.
14 Other Running Tips
Breathing: Fully expand your lungs on the inhale, breathing from the belly. And exhale completely. Shallow breathing is inefficient, so get as much out of each breath as possible. You might even try to inhale and exhale in a rhythm with your feet – inhaling for two steps, exhaling for two (or longer if you can).
Tension: Notice if you are really tense anywhere like your shoulders, lower back, arms or hands. If there is anywhere in your body you can let go of tension you’ll conserve energy, you’ll likely feel better and you’ll definitely run better. So try to draw your shoulders down away from your ears and relax your fists. If you’re holding onto your phone with a death grip, soft it slightly and see how that feels.
Lower Back: Are you arching and sticking your ribs out? If you are, draw your ribs in by gently engaging your core and glute muscles to bring your pelvis back to neutral and try to hold onto that as you run.
Torso: You want to hinge forward slightly when you run versus being completely upright. Think of running like controlled falling. Hinge forward and try to stay off your heels.
Feet: Try to land with control with each stride on your forefoot and try to minimize your impact. If you’re striking hard and heavy with your heels try to shift your weight forward and soften it up. The more you pound and slam your feet, the harder it is on your joints.
Shoes: I recommend going to a running store and having your gate assessed in order to make sure your shoes are the best fit for your anatomy and form.
Arms: Try not to clench your fists. If you run with your fists up by your chest, considering lowering them so your fingers graze your waistline instead. This will save energy over the course of your run. Resist swinging your arms side to side. Think about gently punching your elbows straight back behind you as you stride forward.
Posture: Remember to draw your shoulders down and keep your ribs down so your back stays neutral. Keep those elbows punching back and don’t slam your feet. Imagine there’s a string tied to your sternum that pulls you forward as you run. In this position, you’ll avoid rounding your shoulders and hunching over, which makes it much harder to breath properly and puts extra stress on the neck.
Pain: Frankly, you should NOT run through pain. Running when you are tired, challenged or uncomfortable is ok. This is how you will push yourself and improve. But pain is never ok. If you have a cramp, stop and work it out. If you feel pain in your ankles, knees, hips, back or anywhere else stop, walk it out or stretch. If that pain persists, seek professional help from a trainer, doctor or physical therapist. This should be about making you stronger and building your body up, not injuring it.
Mindset: Are you worrying about work or thinking about all the things you have to do tonight when you get home? Try to be present with your body and your surroundings. Emptying your mind as you run will help you hit an efficient stride and will make the experience more enjoyable. All that other stuff can wait. Right now it’s about you and your body.
What to Eat Before: Some people prefer to run fasted, meaning on an empty stomach and some folks need to have something in their systems to keep from bonking. Figure out what’s best for you and keep consistent. If you're training for a race you don’t want to try anything new on event day. If you’re unsure, try having a small snack 30-45 minutes before your training runs like a handful of almonds, an apple with nut butter or a healthy protein bar (I like Rx bars). Keep it simple and make sure it has some protein and healthy carbs.
What to Eat After: After your run, try and have a snack or healthy meal within an hour of finishing. Definitely make sure it has 20-30 grams of protein and some healthy carbs to keep you from losing muscle and to replenish your glycogen stores for your next run.
Massage: Runners often make the mistake of waiting to get a massage until after their event. My best tip is to get a massage seven to 10 days before your race. Especially in training programs that involve a mileage taper, the last one to three weeks before an event are about making sure you're fresh for the big day. Massage therapy speeds athletic recovery and can address some aches and pains that may be problematic on race day, when you want to be as relaxed and well-rested as possible. Massage therapy is great after an event too, but in terms of athletic performance, it's more important before.
Sleep: Being well-rested not only improves performance, but it will also reduce inflammation and joint pain and speed up healing times when you're injured (conversely, lack of sleep prolongs healing). It only takes a week or two of poor sleep to spark these negative side effects—or for increased sleep to spark positive results. Plus, sleep impacts both our bodies and our minds. Motivation is directly tied to how rested we feel, so make sleep a priority and you’ll increase the likelihood that you'll stick to your training program.