Running is one of the oldest and most primal forms of exercise. Paleolithic men and women ran from predators and ran to hunt food. Today, most of us sit behind desks or stand behind counters, and running has become an athletic activity that we strive to make time for in our week.

Whether you’re tackling a marathon, running trails or jogging a stretch of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes to start your day, preparing your body for this high impact activity and recovering well after a run are both vital.

Before: Fueling Up
While a small amount of coffee or green tea can give you a natural energy boost for your workout, some people like to also pre-fuel with carbohydrates or protein. However, downing a stack of pancakes or chugging a bottle of Ensure, while giving you short-term results, can result in long-term digestive and gut health issues.

Instead, start your run with a nutrient-dense, healthy carb-rich greens and fruit smoothie or juice* that’s easier to digest. Or shake up protein powder with some quality omega-3 oil.* You will notice the difference in your energy levels, endurance, mental clarity and muscle recovery during your workout.

In addition, therapeutic enzymes, taken before exercise, can make a significant dent in post-workout muscle soreness.*

Before: Warming Up
Stretching before a run is vital to prevent injury, maintain form and improve response time. However, you don’t want your muscles to be too loose. A five-minute light warm up and stretch is sufficient to get your muscles ready to work. And don’t just focus on your calves and quads – be sure to work out the kinks in your shoulders, neck and back as well. Foot to ground impact affects the entire body, and preparing each muscle will result in a better post-workout recovery.

Second, make sure you have good running shoes specifically made for your running sport – not basketball, cross-training or dress shoes, but running shoes. For many of us, running is difficult enough as it is – why add another obstacle into the mix? Having proper shoes will also make focusing on form more accessible.

After: Cooling Down
After your workout, your muscles are hot, your skin is sweaty and your lungs are sucking air. Slowly cooling down with movement and post-workout stretching will help your body purge excess lactic acid, reducing soreness over the next 36 hours. Focus on the muscles that feel the most taxed. Use a tennis ball to self-massage joints, muscles and connective tissues. Finally, stretch long, using both static and active stretches.

After: Fueling
Traditionally, athletes are known to binge after a workout, and the mainstream consensus is that you should eat within 20-60 minutes of a cardio exercise. However, that idea has been challenged in recent years. While this is still the recommendation for anyone who did not fuel before their run, many athletes are now merely following their regular meal schedule post workout. Experiment and find out which protocol works best for you.

Regardless which strategy you choose, seek out fresh, seasonal foods, avoid refined sugars and simple carbs, and choose natural and organic proteins and produce.* You will discover that you sleep better, perform better and experience less muscle soreness. Above all, know your body, listen to its signals and stay healthy out there on the roads and trails. 

Running Performance Tip:
Drinking during a long run, especially during hot weather, will make a vast difference in your performance and recovery. Simply drink clean water – every 20 minutes is recommended. For more on fueling during a workout see the article “The Real Truth About What To Eat Before, During and After Your Workouts & Races,” by Ben Greenfield. www.bengreenfieldfitness.com

*My Picks:

  • Smoothies & Juices: Raw Family Green Smoothies Blog www.greensmoothiesblog.com
  • Protein Powder: Natural Factors’ Whey Factors or Life’s Basics Plant Protein
  • Omega-3 Oil: Nordic Naturals Sport Fish Oil or Udo’s Plant-Based Oil
  • Enzymes: Enzymedica’s SerraGold or a high-potency Bromelain
  • Choosing Produce: Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce www.ewg.org/foodnews/