The 3 worst things to do before a run
Some of these may be beginner mistakes, but we all could use a refresher course on the do’s and don’ts. We all make some mistakes. Old or young, experienced or beginner, everyone has made running mistakes. The purpose here is to help you to limit those mistakes and their consequences. Learning from my mistakes will hopefully help you avoid them and have long-term success. From my experience as a chubby runner, here are a few things to avoid before a run.
1. Eating a big meal
I love to eat as much as the next guy, probably more than the next guy. It’s one of the reasons I run because I love to eat. One of the things l have learned from experience is not to eat a big meal right before a run. There’s an episode of The Office where Michael Scott organizes a 5K fun run and just prior to the race eats a huge plate of fettuccini Alfredo. Spoiler alert, he pukes. A similar thing happened to me. I was going to go out on a training run in the summertime about mid-day and I had eaten a few too many slices of pizza for lunch. I didn’t think it would affect me, but it did. Spoiler alert, I puked. All over someone’s lawn. The big takeaway, avoid eating a big meal within an hour of your training run.
For best results, try to time your meals. Make sure you give your GI tract time to move the food through your system before you venture out. When you run, your digestion slows down because the blood flow to our digestive system is diverted toward the muscles involved in running, namely the lungs and legs. So, if you eat a meal right before a run, the food is not able to be digested properly. This can cause things like side stitches, cramping, or worse. You could puke on some dude’s lawn.
What should morning runners eat before a run
For those who run first thing in the morning, here’s something that may blow your mind. You may not even need to eat anything before your run. Depending on the distance or duration, running on an empty stomach for runs less than an hour is actually okay to do. It’s actually good for your metabolism. If you are running later in the day, then you should definitely watch your food intake. Allow at least one or two hours after eating lunch or dinner before running.
What to eat before a run
Keep your food choices simple and easy when you know a run is imminent. Try to eat lean proteins and complex carbs. These foods tend to be best because they are easily digestible. Try to steer clear of fried or fatty foods and high sugar foods before a run.
Eating before longer runs
For longer weekend morning training runs, I would set my alarm to get up earlier and so that I had 30 to 60 minutes to digest before running. I would eat a banana, maybe a piece of wheat toast with natural peanut butter and water. That was enough to give me the energy I needed and it didn’t sit heavy in my stomach.
Everyone’s gut is different, so be flexible and experiment with foods to figure out what works best for you given the time of day you’ll be running and the duration of your run.
How much should you drink before a run? This is yet another question that is really dependent upon the individual. It varies based on your size, activity level, weather, and how much you sweat. A general rule of thumb, drink two liters of fluid a day. Chugging a gallon of water just before you head out the door won’t hydrate you quick enough and you’ll have all that water sloshing around in your stomach.
Daytime runners hydration
For those non-morning runners, sipping water throughout the day is probably the best way to stay hydrated without overdoing it. Morning runners will need to hydrate more quickly. If you tend to jump out of bed and into your running shoes, drink a tall glass of water immediately upon waking, then get dressed and ready. This should give your body some time to digest before you hit the pavement.
I like to run in the morning so a caffeinated or energy drink gives me that little boost of energy I need to get going. I try to avoid drinks that have a bunch of sugar because it can spike blood sugar levels, which is followed by a big crash. For some people, too much sugar and artificial sweeteners can cause stomach issues, so if you can, it may be best to avoid them.
A good way to tell whether you’re properly hydrated is by looking at the color of your pee. If it’s dark yellow, you need to drink more fluids. If there’s no color at all, you’ve been drinking too much water. And if your pee is very light-yellow, you’re properly hydrated. Isn’t the human body amazing?
3. Potty talk before a run
Bathroom talk is always a touchy subject. The words poop and pee cause us to blush, so we shy away from talking about it. The fact of the matter is, it’s a part of life and for runners, it’s a part of life on the go. Ideally, we are all able to go to the bathroom before we leave the house on a training run. But in the real world, our timing isn’t always impeccable. Often, we leave the house thinking we’ll be fine and then we get a mile into a run, and then, uh oh, we feel the churning in the lower tummy and know we are screwed. You thought puking on some dude’s lawn was embarrassing, well squatting is worse. Much worse.
To help prevent a blowout, stop eating and drinking about 30 minutes before you leave the house and make one last bathroom pit stop before heading out. When I first started running I would eat a granola bar and a banana and down a bunch of water before heading out on a morning training run. For me, running exacerbated the digestive process and I found myself in the middle of a neighborhood, clinching my cheeks and waddling like a penguin with hip dysplasia, hoping and praying that I could at least make it to a wooded area before I exploded. The best-case scenario at that point was to find a dirty porta-potty. Worst case, well, you can only imagine. Bottom line, poop before you leave the house and you won’t have to wonder about what you’d do in this situation.
Know your gut
Once I became more familiar with my body, my pre-run ritual just included a little more time for digestion and pooping before heading out. With time, you’ll come to understand what works best for you and your body prior to an early morning run. Until then, eating and drinking before a run is fine, just give yourself some time to digest and hit the bathroom before venturing out.
Last thoughts on what not to do before a run
These tips will be helpful to any new runner, but they are also helpful to more seasoned runners as well by way of review. Sometimes we get set in our habits and a quick refresher course gets us thinking straight again.