Whether you want to admit it or not, if you’re a runner you’re a creature of habit.
We all are.
Once we figure out what works for us on race day, and we do everything we can to avoid deviating from our script.
For me personally, I’ve found that what works for me for longer races is getting up early enough to eat a legitimate breakfast before my race.
And no, a legitimate breakfast isn’t a half of a bagel with a schmear of peanut butter and banana slices on it.
In my world, a legitimate breakfast is 3-4 eggs, preferably fried but scrambled/omelet works in a pinch, with home fries and grits.
And coffee. Lots of coffee.
That may not sound like your typical pre-race fare, but it works for me and it is definitely one race day habit that I try to stick to as closely as possible for every marathon that I run.
The point is, once we find what works best for us, we tend to stick with it as long as it keeps working.
Yet, without fail, at every race I’ve run I’ve seen several bad running habits in action.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a short local race or a big festive marathon, several bad running habits have been accepted as beneficial by many within the running community.
What are the bad running habits I’m talking about?
Well, I’m glad that you asked…
3 Bad Running Habits You Should Consider Breaking Up With
- Pre-Race Pasta Dinner: This happens all of the time! Many races even offer a pre-race event where pasta is the main course so that runners can “carbo load” the night before their race so they’ll have enough fuel to get them to the finish line in the morning. If this logic worked, why then do we still take need fuel on the course? The fact is, the pre-race pasta dinner has the potential to do much more harm than it does good. Even for folks that don’t have a gluten sensitivity, consuming that many processed carbs at once is a recipe for a tummy disaster! Plus, our bodies have a certain capacity for storing fuel in our muscles, and once that cap is reached it doesn’t matter how much more food we put into our mouths we can’t store any more! Well we can, we just convert it to fat and store it for use later, but I digress. If you’re eating healthy and nutritions foods in the week leading up to the race, plus following a proper taper to allow for adequate recovery, you’ll be at your max fueling capacity without any carb loading, I promise.
- Pre-Race Stretching: I’m a defender of stretching, I really am. Even though there is no definitive research showing that stretching reduces injuries, I know I feel better when I’m consistently stretching my muscles. But the reason that pre-race stretching makes it on the list of bad running habits is because before the races in the WORST TIME to be stretching! And many runners that I’ve seen stretching before the race are doing so without any substantial warm up, which only makes the problem worse! Holding a static stretch reduces the amount of elasticity in your muscles which reduces the amount of power those muscles can produce. Translation, stretching right before you race actually makes you run your race slower! And not only that, but if you’re stretching without properly warming up, you’re stretching cold muscles which are going to be more susceptible to injury. Instead of stretching before your race, do an easy jog or some lunges/squats. Those activities will warm up your muscles and actually help you be ready to run from the time the race starts.
- Compression Gear: You could make an argument that wearing compression gear for a race doesn’t really belong on this list because there isn’t any detrimental impact from wearing sleeves or socks. That’s fair, but the reason I’m including it on this list of bad running habits is because many runners believe that wearing compression socks will improve their performance. And the research just doesn’t support that idea. What the research does support, and what my own anecdotal evidence confirms, is that compression socks are great for expediting recovery. But if you’re wearing them during your race, you really aren’t getting any benefit. That said, the placebo effect is very real, so if you’re convinced they help keep on wearing them! And if they are part of your running outfit for the day, well who am I to tell you how to dress for a race.
If you regularly do any of the bad running habits on this list, don’t worry because you’re not alone.
Shoot, I’m pretty sure I’ve committed all of these “sins” at one point or another in my years as a runner.
But as I continue to grow and learn more about our sport, and pay attention to the actual research instead of the claims made by marketers/advertises, I’ve learned that some habits are better than others.
As you continue as a runner, try replacing some of these bad running habits with better ones, and see what happens.
You might be pleasantly surprised with the results.