1. Fuel1 of 11
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. Hydrate2 of 11
Drink at least eight 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. Shake it out3 of 11
You may be tempted to do intense stretching to get warmed up, but try to just loosen up 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.
4. Start slow4 of 11
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. Monitor your shoes5 of 11
Track the mileage on your shoes. At about 300 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. Cooldown6 of 11
After you finish your miles, do a three to five-minute cool down run, then 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. Soak7 of 11
Take a hot bath or relax in a hot tub after your workout. 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. Feet up the wall8 of 11
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. Fuel again9 of 11
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. More water10 of 11
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.