How many times have you gone out for a run and felt like your legs were made of concrete, or worse? Surprisingly, they might not feel so bad from something that you did as from something that you didn't do. Treat your legs well between runs to gain more enjoyment from your workouts, increase performance, and speed up recovery
1. If you eat a large meal before a run, wait at least three hours before you head out. Almost nothing you eat immediately before a run will digest enough to give you energy during your run. If you do have to eat, choose something your system can easily absorb, such as a banana, a few spoonfuls of peanut butter or honey, or a handful of dried fruit.
2. Drink at least 8 oz. of water a half hour before heading out to prevent dehydration. If you're going for longer than a 10K, you might consider taking a water bottle or planning a route that has a water stop along the way. Staying hydrated will keep your legs from cramping, especially in hot weather.
3. You may be tempted to do intense stretching to get warmed up, but try Chi Running Body Looseners instead. Ankle rolls, hip rotations, and knee circles are a few gentle exercises you can do to get your body loose and relaxed without straining cold muscles and joints. See the Chi Running book or DVD for a detailed explanation.
4. Begin your runs with a very relaxed and easy stride - not too fast. Increase your pace slowly until you're running at your desired level. If you start off too fast, you risk running out of gas early in your run, and you'll feel more soreness in your legs afterwards.
5. Track the mileage on your shoes. At about 500 miles, mid-soles can become too compressed to return to their original shape between runs, and your feet and legs will begin to notice. Be sure to replace your shoes regularly.
6. After a three to five minute cool down jog, stretch thoroughly. Don't just jump back into your car and head off to your next event, or you could be walking around with tight legs for the rest of the day. Doing a cool down and stretching period allows the lactic acid (the byproduct created by your muscles) to be flushed out into your bloodstream and eliminated from your body.
7. Take a hot bath or relax in a hot tub after your workout if you can. Soaking your legs warms your muscles and relaxes them back into their normal shapes. A shower doesn't work as well, unfortunately, but it's still good for your legs if a bath is out of the question.
8. Do "leg drains" by lying on your back with your legs extended vertically and feet propped against a wall for three to four minutes. This drains the blood out of your legs so fresh, clean blood can be pumped back into them when you stand up. You can do leg drains either immediately after stretching or after your bath. Either way, you'll notice a markedly different pair of legs under you when you get up.
9. If you've just done a strenuous workout, one of your next two meals should be a solid protein meal, which helps your muscles rebuild themselves. Add a hearty green salad and fresh vegetables to replenish your system with valuable minerals.
10. Whether or not you're a regular runner, you should be drinking water all day long. Eight to 10 glasses of water spread throughout the day will replenish the fluid lost to exercise. Don't drink your water all at once; just keep an even flow going.
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