It’s really easy sometimes during the peak of training to get caught up in the number of miles, paces, race day nerves, how sore and tired you feel, and anxiety over goals. While there are plenty of runs during race training that remind of us of why we love to run, there are also runs where our pursuit of a particular time goal in the workout distracts us from the simple joy of running.
Yesterday’s run could have began like that for me. I am not a huge fan of recovery runs. They are short, slow, and my legs usually feel like lead the entire time. I seldom enjoy these runs, until recently when the weather was nice enough to start taking Charlie out with me. Running with Charlie teaches me and reminds me valuable lessons about running. He’s such a happy boy and just loves to run!
1. Running with your dog reminds you the pure joy of running. Maybe when you started running, it wasn’t fun, but eventually you started to enjoy it. That enjoyment factor is what keeps you running, instead of choosing swimming, cycling, Crossfit, or whatever else are your primary form of exercise. When you’re in the throes of training or having an off day, you tend to focus on other things, like what pace you need to hit or how sore you feel, that can detract from the enjoyment of the run. Whether it’s an easy run, long run, or hard speed intervals, be like Charlie and focus on just how awesome it is that you get to run. There’s fresh air, you’re getting exercise, and it just feels good!
2. When Charlie runs, he grabs pieces of grass in his mouth mid-run as fuel. It’s one of the cutest things ever (except when he pulls hard on the leash and nearly drags me down), and it reminds me how important fueling is before, during, and after a run. Neglecting to hydrate or consume carbs when you need them is just going to set you up for a bad run. You’ll feel fatigued and out of energy and won’t enjoy the run. Maybe you skimp on mid-run fuel because you are trying to lose weight, but this will only make you hungrier and crave sugarier foods later (and a piece of cake or several cookies has more calories than a couple Gus!). So make sure you drink water before your run, during (especially if you’re out there longer than 45 minutes), and after your run. Have a snack before, and if you’re running longer than 90 minutes, take fuel during your run. Afterwards, don’t forget about a meal with plenty of carbs to replenish your glycogen stores!
3. Do you ever go out to run for an hour but then don’t want to spend five minutes stretching? That’s me, but I’ve noticed that Charlie always stretches after a run. When we come inside, he pushes back into downward dog (yes, he actually stretches like that!) and then stretches forward and shakes out his back legs. Stretching after a run speeds up recovery, reduces the risk of injury, and prevents later stiffness and soreness. Whether you stick to traditional static stretches or do a few minutes of yoga after your run, stretching is a small investment of time for a huge investment in recovery.
4. Running, at the very heart of it, is a simple sport. It’s easy, however, to make it more complicated with technology, gear, and supplements. While these all have their values, especially if you’re training for a big goal, it’s important from time to time to just unplug and enjoy the run. When we run together, Charlie is not staring at a Garmin to track his pace, he does not listen to any music, nor does he need shoes from the latest trend. He just runs, plain and simple. These types of runs can have a value in our training, particularly on easy days or in the weeks after a race, as they help us return to the simplicity of running and enjoy the outdoors.
5. After a run, Charlie always likes to take a nap. With all the busyness in our lives, it’s easy to skimp on sleep in order to get more done. However, sleep is essential to recovery, and recovery is essential for getting faster, preventing injury, losing weight, and staying healthy. Even more so, I find that I’m more productive and efficient when I’m well rested and get more done than when I skimp on sleep with the exact purpose of getting more done. While we all probably don’t want to sleep 16 hours a day like Charlie, a solid 7-9 hours a night can do wonders for our running, mood, energy, and overall well-being.
However, unlike Charlie, we will all always choose to use the bathroom before, rather than during the run, and to not get thrown off our course in an attempt to catch some birds.
Question of the Day:
Who has taught you unexpected lessons or inspires you in running?