What You Should And Shouldn’t Do Before A Run

One of the joys of running is its simplicity. You just pull on a pair of shoes, ideally some clothes depending on local public nudity laws, and head out the door. You don’t have to travel anywhere in particular to do it, or use a bunch of expensive equipment. However, it’s still wise to run through a short pre-run checklist before you begin. Just in case.

DO... Warm up

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Almost all runners know they should warm up and almost all runners neglect to, instead deciding that a slightly slower first mile will do them in terms of priming the body for their run. A proper warm up not only helps you actually run that first mile at pace, but also reduces your risk of injury, and it’s essential ahead of harder runs like tempo or interval sessions.

A good warm up for a run involves five to ten minutes of slow jogging, plus a series of dynamic stretches like lunges, skipping, high knees, and jumping jacks. What it doesn’t involve is static stretches... 

DON’T... Static stretch

For many people the idea of a warm up conjures images of holding a series of stretches for 30 seconds at a time, just like we used to in PE. However, research has shown that static stretches like these do nothing to reduce your injury risk and can actually slow you down on your run. Save static stretches for after your run, and do dynamic ones beforehand instead.

DON’T... Eat a big meal

After you chow down on a big dinner do you usually a) feel like going for a run, or b) feel like lying down on the sofa for a nap? Hopefully most, if not all, of you went for option b, because that’s the right thing to do. Your body needs time to digest and if you divert resources away from that process because you decide to knock out a quick run, expect some gastrointestinal distress in the shape of stomach cramps and nausea. And even if that doesn’t happen you’ll feel lethargic and slow on your run. Eat your meals a few hours before any runs, and if you need a pick-me-up to get you through opt for a light snack.

DO... Be wary of new gear

Buying new gear is always fun, but wearing that gear for the first time on your Sunday long run or for a race is not a smart idea. Sometimes clothes can chafe and annoy in unexpected ways, and new running shoes can cause blisters or just be really uncomfortable. Trial new gear on short runs where any problems with it are unlikely to be too annoying, and keep tabs on your favourite stuff over time to assemble a tried-and-tested line-up for your races and long runs. The last thing you want is to find out your brand new shoes are rubbing at mile four of a marathon.

DON’T... Over – or under – hydrate

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Clearly it’s a bad idea to head out for a run having failed to drink any water all day long, but you should also avoid the perils of overhydration. This can happen when a runner drinks too much water without taking on any electrolytes, which can result in a serious condition called hyponatremia – low blood sodium – which can arise as a problem during long runs and marathons in particular. In general, drink to thirst and check the colour of your pee – it should be clear or straw coloured.

DO... Go to the loo

One of the only downsides of running is that it can sometimes provoke the need to go to the toilet. Rather urgently. Even if you’re only popping out for a 20-minute run, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry, especially if you’ve just had a cup of coffee.

In summary, make sure you dynamically stretch before you run, not static. Eat a small snack pre-run, don’t wear your new gear for a long run, test it on your shorter runs first, make sure you are adequately hydrated and always go to the toilet before you ru just as a precaution!

Marcus Sladden