Five Non-Running Activities That Will Benefit Your Running
The only way to become a better runner is to tweak your training regime, right? Or is it? Not necessarily. What you do in between your training runs may have just as big an impact on your running performance as your training program itself. Using your time off wisely may be just what the doctor ordered to take your running to the next level. Here are five non-running activities that will benefit your running.
1. Getting enough sleep
The body uses sleep to, among other things, repair, rebuild and rejuvenate itself, grow muscle tissue and produce hormones. It comes as no surprise then that a constant lack of sufficient, good quality sleep may interfere with these vital processes and in turn leading to sub-optimal functioning and athletic performance.
We live in a day and age where busy lifestyles, high stress levels and demanding jobs often push sleep to the bottom of our priority lists. But don’t let it. Do whatever is within your power to make enough sleep a priority. Limit TV watching to one Netflix episode per night instead of three or four. Completely switch off your electronic devices when going to bed. Skip your nightly fix of java and avoid doing high-intensity workouts an hour or two before bedtime. These measures might sound drastic, but giving your body the rest it deserves will pay off in the long run.
2. Nourishing your body
Just like a car, your body needs the correct fuel in order for it to function optimally. So why go for the convenient, but overly processed, sugar-laden and empty calorie foods when, instead, you can fuel with foods that nourish, hydrate, enhance recovery and help prevent illness? With just a little bit of planning and preparation, the need for grabbing less nutritious eats and drinks on the go can be almost entirely eliminated.
So forget about following the latest fad diet or falling into the trap of noshing on the go. Instead, fuel your body with the most nutritious, unprocessed, wholesome food you can find and afford. Your body will thank you by feeling great and performing well.
3. Foam rolling
If you haven’t invested in a foam roller yet, then do it now. Improving the mobility of fascia (i.e. sheets of connective tissue underneath the skin that attach, stabilize, enclose and separate muscles) through self-myofascial release with the aid of a foam roller can benefit runners in a variety of ways. Regular, correct foam rolling may result in increased blood flow to muscles, an increased range of motion and a decreased rate of injury. Just be sure to educate yourself on the correct use of a foam roller before getting started – incorrect use may lead to new niggles or worsen existing ones.
4. Being clever about recovery
The best part about finishing a tough workout is plopping down on the couch afterwards, right? Maybe so, but taking the time and putting in the effort to use your post-workout time wisely will translate to quicker and better recovery, leaving you refreshed and ready for your next workout.
So what can you do to help your body recover post-workout? Rehydrate with a natural, healthy option like pure coconut water to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Ingest a nutritious, healthy mixture of proteins and carbs to replenish energy stores and help the body rebuild and repair itself. Stretch the major muscle groups used for running. For longer runs and more intensive training sessions, take a moment to lie with your legs up against the wall and invest in some post-workout compression gear. And, last but not least, if your schedule allows, treat yourself to a short afternoon nap on long run days.
Proper recovery is a vital part of an intensive, high mileage training regime. So come on, don’t skimp on it. Your body will thank you.
5. Cross training
As runners we are renown for shunning other forms of exercise in favor of our activity of choice: Running. But what we so often stubbornly forget, is the fact that active recovery days can be just as beneficial to our overall performance. Giving our muscles and joints a break from the impact of running and opting for a pilates or stretching class once or twice a week instead will benefit not only the body, but the mind as well. Why not give it a go and see what happens?
As Joan Benoit Samuelson once said, running “is about our lifestyle and who we are”. So go ahead and dare to make running about more than just your training runs. Make it a lifestyle. Use the time between your runs in a way that will benefit your running. Chances are that it will take your running to new heights!