How to avoid a "Bad Running Day"
I hear a lot of people say "I just had a bad running day" or "I was just off today". And while sometimes this is true, sometimes we do just have unexplainable bad running days, for the most part if we look closely we can figure out why we had a bad running day, and than avoid it in the future. There are five main places you should look to determine what cause this bad running experience:
The first is SLEEP- Are you sleeping enough? It is important to let your body rest, lack of sleep, especially built up over several days can greatly affect your running. I hear a lot of people worry about sleep the night before a race- it is a good ides to get a good nights sleep two or three nights before a race so even if you can't sleep the night before you will still be rested. The average person needs 8 hours of sleep! And most of us don't get that- make an effort to get into bed earlier, keep the tv turned off, and try reading or music to help relax you and help you get to sleep earlier.
The second is FUEL- This involves three important questions: Are you eating enough? Are you eating too much? And are you eating the right things? Some people don't eat anything in the morning, especially if they are running in the morning or right after work- you need fuel! If you are running in the morning eat something small, a banana or a granola bar as soon as you get up so you can digest it a little while you are getting dressed to run. If you are running after work make sure you eat enough during the day and snack an hour before you run. Some people eat too much, I know at the end of the work day I am hungry, and there are times I have gone home and eaten a lot before my run, and boy have I regretted it! Try eating more during the day and than just a small snack before you run. And lastly, it is important to put the right type of fuel into your body, especially right before a run- your body can't break down a slice of pizza quick enough to use it as fuel, and sugary food are not good either, because while you might be on a sugar high at the beginning of your run, it will quickly fall and your energy will rapidly deplete. The following foods are great to snack on before a run: bananas, cereal, granola bars, bread and peanut butter- these will give you lasting energy through your run. There are a lot of great bars and gels designed to give you lasting energy- try these instead of unhealthy snacks. (It is important on runs longer than 7 miles to eat while running, gels and bars are easy to carry with you and eat on the run).
The third is WATER- Do you drink enough water during the day? If you are thirsty the answer is no! You need to drink water all day long, not just before and during your run. If you are at work during the day try and keep a glass of water in front of you at all times, and always be taking sips throughout the day (I have heard some people say they have a hard time drinking water, a drop of lemon juice in your water may help). Sports drinks are also good, but if you plan on drinking them all day everyday it is suggested you mix them half and half with water as they can be rough on your stomach. It is important to drink water while you are running as well, there are running belts to carry water and also hand-held water bottles designed to stay attached to your hand while running. Most of us don't get enough water, so drink up!
The forth is your GEAR- It is important to check that your gear fits properly and works properly. Sneaker only last 300-500 miles, beyond that you need to get a new pair. Bad footwear can cause stress on your knees, hips, and back, causing a bad (and usually painful) run. Running shirts and shorts should be designed to pull sweat away from your body and keep you cool and dry. In cold weather be sure to wear headgear and gloves. Being too hot or too cold causes your body to use energy to regulate body temperature- energy which would be better spent on running.
The fifth is you MENTAL HEALTH- If you are anything like me, running is the ultimate stress reliever- but that stress can sometimes get in the way of a good run. Try to avoid stress build up or anxiety. There are several ways this can be done, and everyone has a different method. I find it helpful to write lists down of what I need to get done- that way I don't have to worry about it while I run- I know when I get back from my run everything will be right there, organized, waiting for me to complete- that way I can run without worrying about what I am forgetting. When you put on those sneakers and step out the door allow that time to be yours, allow the open run to relieve your stress, leave your worrier behind, there will be plenty of time to address them after you get back from your run.
The five areas listed below can greatly affect your running and cause a "bad running day", but just little changes in your daily routine or your pre-running routine can make a big difference in your run. It is a good idea to examine your routines and see if it would benefit you to make any small changes- but don't drive yourself crazy doing this- sometimes we truly do just have a bad day, as long as you aren't having two or three bad days in a row I wouldn't be too worried. And just think, even your bad running day is better than no running day at all!