A Q&A for runners about stretching, healing, eating and more
By Henry Howard
As an accredited running coach and student of the sport, I enjoy sharing advice to runners who may be less experienced. While I don’t spend much time on Facebook, I’m in a few groups where runners ask questions. I’ve compiled some common questions I see in those forums, as well as others I’ve answered from coaching clients and friends.
Here are five fairly common questions and answers:
Question: Should I stretch before a run?
Answer: Yes, but you should perform a dynamic warmup, made up of active movements. Dynamic stretches are different than static ones. Examples of common dynamic warmup moves include clamshells, lunges, leg swings and donkey kicks. Static stretches are highly recommended for after a run, race or other workout. They are generally where you stay in one place and hold a stretch for 30 seconds or longer. For more on this topic and examples, check out this recent post.
Question: I have a soft-tissue injury. What is the best way to heal it?
Answer: First and foremost, this is not to be considered medical advice, just a general overview. For injuries, consult a medical professional.
Over the years, health experts have recommended the RICE approach, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Now, there is emerging evidence that MEAT — Movement, Exercise, Analgesia and Treatment — is a better option. The theory is that movement helps increase blood flow and promotes faster healing. For more on both approaches and how to use them, this post goes into good detail.
Question: Sometimes I don't feel like running. Does this happen to others, and how do we get past this? Answer: That's completely natural and understandable. Few, if any, runners enjoy every single run.
It's always helpful to have a strong “why” and circle back to it when needed. Why am I training? Is it for a certain goal race, or perhaps to improve fitness or wellness?
I also try to focus on the process. Every run is a building block to the goal. Keep showing up, do the work and amazing things will happen. Question: What should I eat and drink before a 6- to 8-mile run? Answer: Don't think of it as distance, think of it as time. Generally runners don't need additional calories until after running for 50 minutes to an hour. I'd recommend always hydrating beforehand with water, and having something small and easily digestible, if that is what your body is craving prior to heading out.
If you don't have time to eat before a run and expect to be out longer than an hour, bring something with you that you can easily eat and digest on the go. For me, I use Honey Stinger's gluten-free waffles, chews and or gels. The waffles are my go-to for the majority of my runs. At 140 calories, they are a great tasting mid-run option and provide the energy boost I need.
Question: I am in a slump and need some encouragement. I am in fear of giving up running if I don't get control of this now. Answer: This can be frustrating and everyone needs to find what motivation will return them to the joy of running.
One idea is to make it easy so that running is part of the routine. Turn off the brain and let the habit take back over. Lay out your gear the night before, get up, warm up and run first thing in the morning.
Another option is to leave the watch at home. Don't worry about time, pace or distance. Just relax and run.
You might also want to change up your routine. If you usually run solo, head out with a friend or join a training group. Road runners might want to try out trails. Vice versa for trail runners.
For those who are driven by goals, dream big and sign up for an epic challenge! Finding that goal is usually helpful to get the motivation back.
And, last but not least, I would recommend a coach who can provide the motivation you need. I have a coach and also coach athletes myself.
If you are interested in discussing a coach-client relationship, here are some testimonials and a link to send me an email. I'd be happy to discuss my coaching philosophy, approach, rates and more in a free, no-obligation consultation with anyone. If you happen to be a minority interested in running your first ultra marathon, I have a special offer now, think of it as a scholarship, for a sharply reduced rate. Learn more about my effort to bring more minorities into ultra running and all the details at this post .