Running is a sport of discipline. For anyone looking to run seriously—anyone who plans on running any marathons or plans to incorporate running as their regular means of exercise—you can expect to form a lot of habits. When you make yourself run every day, sometimes several times a day, a day without just feels strange.
You’ll change your schedule, your diet, your sleep, and your entire way of thinking. And it’s good for you! But that’s not to say that there aren’t some runners out there guilty of bad habits. Maybe you just slipped up, or maybe you just didn’t know that it was a bad habit. After all, not everyone who decides to run has a personal trainer or the time and energy to do exhaustive research!
A few bad habits shouldn’t be the end of the world…right? Well, when it comes to health and exercise, bad habits can have a big impact! You may be hurting yourself and your body, or at the very least, putting yourself at a higher risk of injury.
These are eight bad habits every runner needs to kill if they want to be at their best.
8 Bad Habits to Avoid Before & After A Run
1) Forgetting to stretch or stretching badly
Back in gym class, most of us were taught a few rudimentary stretches. And if we’re honest, these are probably what most of us still fall back on when we do “stretches” before a run. They’re not sincere, not dedicated, and they’re just a brief chore to check off before we get down to business.
Stretches matter. Skipping them is a bad idea, but doing bad, outdated stretches isn’t much better.
“Static” stretching—the kind many of us are most familiar with—actually encourages the muscles to reflexively become inhibited as they try to protect themselves from becoming over-exerted. Instead, a dynamic warmup is required, one that tests your full range of motion and truly prepares you to run.
Here are five warmup moves that will actually help you run better, not hurt.
Ever run on a full stomach? It’s a thoroughly miserable experience. While it’s important to give yourself good fuel for running, you still have to mind your meals beforehand. Sure, you might want to carb load—but a big plate of food even hours before a race is asking for stomach cramps, side-stitches, and indigestion.
Don’t do that to yourself. Eat in moderation and eat wisely!
3) Drinking too much or not enough
Both dehydration and overhydration are a runner’s enemy. Being dehydrated comes with risks that are more known to us, but slamming down a liter of water right before you run isn’t going to solve the problem. Your body won’t absorb the water that quickly and you’re going to end up with an uncomfortable, sloshing stomach.
The best thing you can do for your hydration levels is to sip on your H2O in smaller, spread-out increments throughout the day, rather than trying to squeeze it all in with a few big bursts.
4) Running weary
As athletes, we often fall into this mindset that tells us that we have to constantly push, constantly run, constantly do better or we’re not good enough. While running is a sport that takes enormous dedication and consistency, we can’t allow that drive to prevent us from listening to warning signs when our bodies need a break.
If you’re tired or feeling aches and pains, it’s okay to take a day off. If you don’t want to take off, maybe try a different kind of exercise. Lift weights or do another form of cardio. Cross-training can be enormously beneficial to runners, especially as we age.
5) Diving into junk food
After intensive cardio, our bodies usually start screaming for carbs. We want to eat and we want to eat a lot. And that’s usually when we fall into the trap of “rewarding” ourselves with junk carbs in the form of chips, breads, pasta, and cookies. If you’re in a rush after your run, it might even be tempting to hit up the drive-thru before you head back to work.
Don’t fall for it! Start packing healthy snacks to take with you so that you can refuel the right way. Don’t succumb to bad snacks. Think turkey on whole-wheat, yogurts, fruits, and nuts instead.
6) Heavy lifting
There are two types of people after exercise. One type gets on a high—they feel invincible! They ran, and now they want to go, go, go and get it all done. Maybe it’s cleaning out the garage. Maybe it’s digging in the lawn or garden. Climbing, stooping, lifting, heaving—these are the people who will clear out their list of chores.
And hey, I’m all for productivity. But going from a run to strenuous chores is not good for you. You need to allow your body to cool down and recover. Change clothes. Take a shower. Rest. If you work, do light chores. You might feel awesome, but you’re not at full capacity. Give yourself time to recoup.
7) Tapping out
The other type of person decides that their run was enough work for one day. They’ve accomplished their exercise and now is the time to go full sedentary. They park it in the recliner and they don’t budge because they’ve earned it. The answer is somewhere in between. Recovery doesn’t mean inactivity! Your breathing won’t be as good and neither will your circulation if you park it on the sofa with Netflix. Do light activity instead and you’ll recover much better.
8) Bumming yourself out
Not all habits are things you physically do. Runners, stop beating yourselves up when you didn’t do as well as you think you should have. If your time or distance was off, it was off. You’ll get out there and try to meet your goals next time.
If you get trapped in a negative headspace and beat yourself up over “bad” numbers, it will negatively impact future performance. Be proud of yourself for getting out there in the first place!