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There are many things to consider before, during, and after a run. Having a goal in mind–such as distance or time–usually helps. A comfortable outfit that leaves room for mobility is ideal, too. Your stance and sneaker choice could also make or break your run, and what you eat before and after makes a huge difference. In addition to all of these things, supplements for runners are usually helpful additions to your routine.
But before we get to those, let’s talk about the mistakes we tend to make, whether we’re marathoners or sticking to casual jogs. According to Tone It Up trainer Stef Corgel, NSCA CSCS, and NASM CPT, there are several steps a runner of any level should never skip: replenishing electrolytes, active recovery/cooldown, a nutritious meal to replenish glycogen levels, and plenty of sleep. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve bypassed one or a couple of these at one point or another.
There’s also the issue of stretching or lack thereof. Before hitting the pavement or treadmill, most of us stick with static stretching instead of more dynamic posing. Corgel suggests saving the static stretches for after your run. “The long, stationary holds of a static stretch actually inhibit your stride length and single-leg force with each foot planted,” she says. “Instead, try dynamic stretches (like skipping or lunging) that move through a great range of motion. These ballistic movements will signal to the brain that the muscle needs to contract evenly and forcefully.”
Proper hydration is another step we should be paying more attention to. Several factors come into play when it concerns your water intake: environment, size, typical activity level, and normal sweat levels. “Drinking too much liquid before a run is simply NOT FUN. You’ll either have water churning around in your stomach or have to stop at the bathroom multiple times,” says Corgel. “Too little liquid in the body can result in decreased performance and dehydration.” If you constantly feel dehydrated, you may need more salt in your diet or an electrolyte-packed sports drink with equal parts water for hydrating benefits without the sugar rush.
Additionally, though many of us start our run with a game plan, overdoing it is always a possibility. According to Corgel, “a runner should, above all, listen to their body and be prepared to alter their workout if necessary.” Pushing through pain or discomfort will cause more harm than good. Oh, and let’s try to stop skipping the cooldown! Proper recovery and muscle adaptation depend heavily on slowing your muscular and nervous systems back into rest mode. Corgel suggests doing this through low-intensity dynamic stretches, foam rolling, and static stretching.
“Choosing to prioritize your recovery may be the difference between complete muscle stiffness and being ready to train the following session,” she adds. (BTW, there are also tones of amazing recovery routines in the Tone It Up app, which is currently free through September.) Personally, I’ve found that certain supplements help boost the effects of lackluster energy beforehand and recovery afterward, too. Ahead, Corgel recommends some of the most beneficial ones. (However, since Corgel isn’t a medical pro, consult with a doctor or nurse beforehand if you have medical concerns that need special attention.)
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Corgel recommends caffeine before running. “Coffee, tea, or a trusted pre-workout supplement” is “a pick-me-up that can improve athletic performance.” Just stick to a limited intake to avoid dehydration.
Energy gels, shots, or gummies are “quick-absorbing carbs and sugar to keep you going smoothly during those long-distance runs.”
BCAAs, or branch-chained amino acids, “promote muscle synthesis and speed up muscle recovery post-workout.”
Corgel also recommends protein powder for muscle building and “reparation of strained muscle tissues.”
Collagen powder also “provides support and elasticity to connective tissue and supports joints.”
Calcium supplements help build “strong bones to endure the repeated pounding and pressure when running.”
“Magnesium aids muscle contraction” and “can induce muscle relaxation after a workout.”
Fish oil or krill oil contains omega-3s that counter lactic acid build-up in the muscles and can help fight inflammation.