9 tips for runners

Whether you’re new to running or have been pounding the pavement for years, these nine tips for runners can help you get the most out of every run

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women running

1. Partner up to stay on track

Many people simply prefer running alone, but it’s worth trying with a friend-you may find you’ll motivate each other, and have more fun. “Running can be very social. It’s something you can do with friends and family. Just choose your partner carefully and get someone around the same level of fitness and with similar goals,” says Alan Brookes, Toronto-based race director of the Canada Running Series.

And running with others-whether just one partner or a group-helps you stay committed, says Wendy Pauls, a personal trainer and running coach in Waterloo, Ont. “The group dynamic is helpful because of the built-in accountability and the social interaction and support.”

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running group

2. Join a running group

Can’t find a willing friend? Find a group in your area by contacting a running store (the Running Room is one example). Most are owned and staffed by runners, and offer beginner clinics. Or do a mix of social and solitary running. Deere runs alone during the week when ?6 a.m. might be his only chance. But he’s a social runner on weekends, for the fun of it.

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fruit snack

3. Eat well before your run

Ideally, says Tristaca Caldwell, a dietitian and owner of Fueling With Food in Halifax, you should wait at least an hour between when you eat and when you run, to avoid cramps. “But experiment, as each woman is different,” she adds. Complex carbohydrates and a little protein will fuel your run. Breakfast examples include a whole-grain cereal with a cup (250 mL) of low-fat milk and a piece of fruit, or a slice of whole-grain toast with peanut butter and banana, a smoothie with milk and fruit, and a 1/4 cup (60 mL) of bran cereal with low-fat milk. Before an after-work run, have a snack one or two hours beforehand: a handful of whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese, a whole-grain granola bar and yogurt, or a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit.

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healthy eating

4. Replace fuel after your run

The goal is to quickly replace the fuel stores you used during the run, says Caldwell. “Runners don’t actually use a lot of protein stores-it’s an inefficient energy source-so carbohydrate is the most important fuel to replace.” After a mid-morning run, have lunch a little earlier, such as a whole-grain pita with hummus and chopped veggies, or a whole-grain sandwich with lean meat. After an evening run, a nutritious supper includes complex carbs and protein, such as a stir-fry with brown rice, lean chicken and vegetables; or a hearty salad with lean protein, like tofu, and a baked potato.

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woman in bath

5. Reward yourself for reaching your goals

When you reach a goal, allow yourself a treat?-a running top in a cool new style or, if you have lost a couple of pounds, in a smaller size. Or maybe a croissant you don’t normally indulge in, or half an hour in the tub with a good book after a run. “When you start accomplishing your goals,” says Stephen Adams, a running coach with the Calgary Spartans running team, “remember how that felt.” It will keep you motivated.

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running shoes

6. Kick-start a lazy day

Just can’t get going? Coach Adams has trained runners from beginners to Olympians, and knows everyone has off days. “If you’re not into it, just put on your shoes and go outside. Walk to the end of the block. Jog back to the house. Often I find that once you’re outside and running, you do your run after all. The theory is, ‘I’m already here; I might as well keep going.’?”

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drink water

7. Drink up!

You probably don’t need to carry water with you if you’re running for 30 minutes. But make sure you drink two cups (500 mL) of water within an hour or two before your run and stay well hydrated throughout the day.

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woman running

8. Give it time to stick

It takes about eight weeks to become a runner, says Deere. When are you a runner? “When you no longer say, ‘Oh my God, this is hard’ and you’re not sore on every run.” By then, you’ll have had enough enjoyable runs-and maybe even have lost a bit of weight-to be self-motivated, he says.

As you progress, stay connected with why you started. “Your personal reasons can serve as gravity, pulling you toward your goals,” says Pauls. But no matter what your goal is, don’t ignore the things around you. “Enjoy what you’re experiencing. Open up your eyes and soak it in,” she says.

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9. Challenge yourself

Got a need for speed? Here’s how to train to pick up your pace. Choose a fun route, such as a park path. Warm up by running very slowly for 10 minutes. Then run 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy, 2 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy, 3 minutes hard, 3 minutes easy, then back down to 2 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy and then 1 minute hard and 1 minute easy. Then warm down by running 10 minutes very slowly.

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