Hollie Sick on the 5 non-running factors that can affect your running

“Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day — Mother Nature's best effort yet at contra-death.” — Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep

By Hollie Sick

As runners, we often get focused on more miles the better, but realistically you need to do the little things to help perform better.

If you’ve ever trained for a race, you know that mileage is important, but there are many other factors when it comes to training. Many other factors affect your running that doesn’t have to do with miles.

What are non-running factors that can affect your running?

Forgetting to take rest days

Rest days are just as important as training days. If you do not rest, your body will continue to break down. During rest days, your muscles and joints are given time to repair and recover. If you continually work out with no rest, you continually break down your body and you run the risk of an overuse injury.

Skipping sleep

Sleep is one of the most important factors to running well. It’s almost always more important to get extra sleep versus run an extra mile or two. During sleep, our body recovers from hard training. Sleep is essential to recover from the damage of running.

Most runners need anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep to recover fully. It can be hard even to get the recommended 8 hours of sleep, but the more rest, the more you recover. I like to turn all technology off around 9:00 p.m. It gives me a way to wind down and relax.

Forgetting strength and cross-training  

Both strength training and cross-training help to strengthen muscles you don’t typically use with running.  Adding both also helps to decrease injury as well as make you a more rounded athlete.

One of the most common misconceptions about cross-training is you need to spend an hour on the elliptical or join a big box gym, but that isn’t the case. For instance, one of my favorite ways to cross-train is by hiking or swimming. You just need to do what works for you and what you enjoy.

Not hydrating properly

Hydration is one of the most critical components for running. During a run or race, when you feel thirsty, it’s too late. Many runners don’t realize that dehydration can cause earlier muscle fatigue and slower recovery times.

How many fluid ounces of hydration is necessary for runners? For men, it’s recommended their body weight times 0.35, and for women, it’s their body weight times 0.31. This will give you an approximate amount in fluid ounces.

It’s always important to remember that sweat rate and time of year play an important role here too.  Hydration takes trial and error to figure out what works for you.

Not figuring out nutrition

Runners can eat anything, right? Wrong. Nutrition is usually one of the hardest pieces of the running puzzle to crack. It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for you before, during, and after a race. Nutrition is often one of the hardest battles for many people.

Proper nutrition will help you achieve goals with running you might have thought weren’t possible. It will also help you recover from runs and train harder than you thought possible. Without proper nutrition before, during, and after a run, you will find yourself sluggish and maybe even with an injury.

The more you run, the more you’ll learn what works for you. Running the mileage and following a training plan is just part of running well.

Hollie Sick is an accomplished runner and frequent contributor to The Half Marathoner. She has run more than 50 half marathons, plus several marathons including last year’s (and this year’s) New York City Marathon. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and her awesome running newsletter.

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