I’ve been toying with the idea of running a half marathon for over two years now. In 2016, a coworker asked if I’d sign up to run one with her. Back then, as someone who’d only ever ventured to run a pre-workout mile on a treadmill, the half-marathon training plans scared me! Running anything over 3 miles seemed like Olympic-level athleticism at the time, and I was nowhere near ready for that.
Needless to say, my coworker went on to run her first half later marathon that year…and I was just an onlooker.
While I set out on a few, sporadic 2-3 mile-long runs after that, I’ve only recently realized that I actually enjoy running—and that I may very well be capable of running a full 13.1! And while I haven’t set a date for my first attempt, I’m getting out there more often and surprising myself each time. Here are the 4 practices that have led me to longer, faster, more comfortable runs these past few weeks.
1) Staying Hydrated
There are few feelings worse than working out when your body isn’t up for it. And trust and believe, if I’m not thoughtful about my water intake, any run or workout is sure to be a bust.
Hydration is more than drinking a few sips of water throughout the day—it’s about intentionally (and continually) fueling, flushing, and cooling my body. Our bodies literally can’t process the food we eat and turn it into energy without water. So without enough water, I end up feeling tired early on into a run, which make the day’s goal so much harder to reach. And don’t get me started on mid-run cramping!
After I finish running, rehydrating becomes just as important as my pre-workout hydration. I’m a naturally sweaty person so I lose a lot of water during all my workouts, mid-winter runs included! Rehydrating with water and my favorite electrolyte-packed drinks are a must.
My Strategy: Instead of chugging a gallon of water right before a run, I aim to drink at least 20 oz of water in the two hours leading up to my planned start time (don’t worry, I always use the restroom before heading out).
As far as post-run hydration goes, I skip sugary sports drinks and drink coconut water instead. YUM!
2) Dressing the part
When I lived in Dallas full time, I didn’t have to give my running fits much thought, focusing instead on the cutest fitness clothes I could find. Nowadays, since I’m running in NYC and have committed to running more often, what I wear while running is a pretty serious decision.
We’re in the midst of winter in the city and, with the weather threatening to take me out, I’m dressing for warmth! By giving more thought to what I wear, I avoid frosty fingers, cold-induced headaches, and general discomfort while running.
My Strategy: These days I’m layering a hoodie on top of my usual t-shirts and wearing fleece-lined leggings, thin gloves, and protection for my head and ears.
This is also an opportunity to mention that working out almost always leaves my hair looking a hot mess! Head wraps and edge-protecting headbands are a must!
3) Intentional breathing
Growing up, I suffered from really bad asthma. And while I still keep an inhaler in my purse (won’t catch me slipping), I’ve learned that my breathing issues of old don’t have to define or limit what I can do now. And while I’ve definitely dealt with strained breathing and shortness of breath while running, there are a few techniques I leverage that help!
Finding the breathing technique that works best for me has made such a huge difference for my stamina and comfort while running. While this approach may not be best for all runners, I’ve been relying on deep belly, rhythmic breathing cycles. Turning away from short, shallow, panting-like breathing, I focus on slow, deep inhales to guide my runs.
My strategy: I typically listen to this 150-165 RPM Spotify playlist (or a podcast) and breathe (and run) in rhythm with what I’m listening to. Generally, that means inhaling through my nose for four counts and exhaling through my mouth for four counts.
4) Factor in a stretch session
Within days of starting my running routine, my hamstrings were so incredibly tight, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to touch my toes again (go ahead, call me dramatic)! The repetitive movement and the overall stress I put on my body by running on concrete left me in deep need of an hour-long hot yoga class.
Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to realize that post-run stretching was a must. To prevent injuries and for the sake of maintaining the overall physical upkeep and wellness of my body, I take a lengthen as I strengthen approach to caring for my muscles! Post-run, when my muscles are warm and primed for stretching, I dedicate 10 – 15 minutes for cool down and repair.
My strategy: At the very least, I end every run with 3 – 5 cycles of Sun Salutation A and a few minutes in runners lunge after a run.
Have you set any big, scary, outside your comfort zone fitness goals this year? What practices have been helping you keep up with your goals so far? Let me know in the comment section below!