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When it comes to our training, runners are really good at getting things done. Weekly long run? Check. Speed work? You bet. But there are a bunch of things that, while we know are important, we don’t do nearly enough. To be the healthiest and most well-rounded runners we can be, we all should try to do more of these five things:
Wear sun protection
As the weather gets warmer, most of us will run the majority of our miles outside. This means months of exposure to the powerful spring and summer sun. It also means an increased risk of sun damage. And yet so many of us are lax when it comes to put to putting on some form of sun protection before heading out the door. Whether you’re running a quick 2-mile loop before work or a Saturday morning ten-miler, wearing some form of SPF is non-negotiable. Stash sunscreen by your sneakers, look for clothing with UV protection and avoid running during the sun’s strongest hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) when possible. Bonus points for adding a hat, sunglasses and SPF lip balm.
Stretch it out
After a tough run, all you want to do is take a shower and collapse. Stretching usually feels like an annoying obstacle standing between you and the couch. But if you want to keep going on those tough runs, you have to stretch or your muscles will be too sore to keep going. Not to mention that tight muscles can be a gateway to injury. So force yourself to take a couple minutes to stretch your legs post-run and then give yourself a few extra minutes in a hot shower as a reward.
Fit in cross-training
Ah, the dreaded cross-training. Who wants to hit the weight room when you could be enjoying a sweaty run? Even an easy yoga class can’t hold a candle to the relaxation of a jog on the trails. But as any runner who’s suffered an injury will learn, strengthening your major leg muscles with cross-training is key to both injury prevention and a faster recovery. Regular core and arm workouts will also keep your balance and form in tip-top shape. So sign up for that Vinyasa class or body pump boot camp; a little work on your strength will make you an even better runner when you get back at it the next day.
Get enough sleep
It’s hard enough fitting a daily run into your busy schedule, so making enough time to log a solid seven or eight hours can seem like a joke. But when you don’t sleep enough, everything about your running suffers. You don’t have enough energy or focus, and your ability to recover from a hard workout is reduced. Try reviewing your schedule for the week to find things you can eliminate or move around to make enough time for your workouts and enough sleep. You can also work on ways to improve your sleep quality; turning off your electronics half an hour before bed, taking a relaxing bath, keeping your room at a cool temperature and avoiding alcohol will all help make your zzz’s count.
Cut ourselves some slack
How many times have you beat yourself up for a bad run? Or skipping one altogether? Or falling short of your race goal? Despite all the endorphins runners experience, we sure know how to feel bad about ourselves. But for how hard we train and the sacrifices we make for our sport, we deserve to feel amazing and have to learn to forgive ourselves. Try and pinpoint the reason you’re upset and then get some positive perspective. Maybe you’re disappointed in a bad run because it’s getting close to your race; remind yourself of all the awesome ones you had before this run. You won’t make your mileage goal for the week since you skipped a run; know that you were exhausted and a rest day will do you more good in the long run than a couple extra miles. You didn’t PR; sure, it sucks, but you have weeks of training under your belt and have a major head start on your next race and chance to reach your goal.