You've probably heard people say that running is a metaphor for life, I truly believe this. You get out of it what you put in. At times you have to push yourself to overcome obstacles that appear impossible. And, like life, you have good days and bad days. I bet while training for this 10k there have been days when you have eagerly set off on your run feeling super strong and motivated, and then days when your legs have felt like led, trudging through the mud. We all have those days and I try to take as many positives from them as I can, reminding myself that life/running is more about the journey than the destination.
Having said that, there are a few key areas that we can focus on to help us have more good days than bad.
Something we all learn the hard way is the importance of being hydrated. I made this mistake for the first time only two weeks ago. I went out on a long run already dehydrated and didn't bring water with me to make it even worse. It is difficult at this time of year, when it's cold, to drink water, but regardless of the temperature outside you are losing fluids while running and need to replenish them. Not drinking enough water before, during and after a run will cause headaches, lack of energy, dizziness and in extreme cases vomiting and diarrhoea.
Similarly, not eating enough before a run will have an effect on your run, and I don't just mean the hour or two before. You must tune into your body now that you are running regularly and pay attention to how your body feels after eating certain foods. The right nutrition is vital for strong performance. If you lack energy during a run, take a look at your diet over the previous couple of days. Chances are you didn't eat enough of the right stuff. Some people swear by a carbohydrate-filled meal the night before a run, something like pasta or rice, but it is entirely up to each individual runner. A balanced, nutritious non-processed meal containing carbohydrates, protein and fat does the trick for me.
Just as important is what you eat just before you run. Have something nutritious 60-90 minutes before, such as wholewheat toast with nut butter or oat bran/porridge with berries and almonds.
It is also just as important to fuel your body after you run. Again it is an individual choice as everybody digests foods differently, so this is something you need to work on and figure out for yourself. I like to have mixed berries with natural yoghurt, muesli made of oats, nuts and dried fruit post-workout.
Sleep is a hugely important part of your training. During the night your body recovers and repairs itself. Human Growth Hormone is released in the body while you sleep, aiding in building and repairing your muscles.
When we repeatedly lack sleep, a hormone call Cortisol is released into the body, this hormone is also known as the stress hormone, it interferes with the body's ability to rest, repair and grow.
Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep, our requirements are different, so whatever works for you. A good way to gauge how much sleep you need is to go to bed at the same time every night for a few nights, then wake up on your own, without the aid of an alarm clock.
STRESS / MOOD
How you feel emotionally can have a huge impact on how you run. If you are feeling low or grumpy it can affect how you perform, believe it or not. When you feel like this, it can be very difficult to muster up the courage to actually go out, and, when you do, each mile can feel like a long, hard slog. When I'm feeling 'tetchy' – this is very rare of course – I run a lot slower than normal and I enjoy my run a lot less.
There is nothing more frustrating than scheduling a run, looking forward to it and then having a bad day and not knowing why. Understanding the reasons behind bad days will help you to give yourself a break, move on and be ready for your next great session.
Enter the March 9 FIT Phoenix Park and Cork July 13 5K/10K at fitmagazine.ie/events
For tips on running, fitness and health see facebook.com/positivefitnesspt and Twitter: @LizCostigan