Stop Skimping On Sleep
While we all know sleep is essential, its importance can’t be minimized, especially for runners and athletes. Sleep is the time when our muscles, brains and bodies repair. Whether you’re preparing for a hard workout or recovering from one, sleep is an absolute necessity for your training and recovery plan.
Skimping on sleep can lead to depression, poor cognitive function, cravings and imbalanced hunger hormones, an inability to focus, poor recovery, higher injury ratesand more. Aim for at least seven hours a night consistently and see how you feel. To improve your sleep health, put the screens and technology away before bed. Try gradually moving your bedtime up and keeping your bedroom on the cooler side (65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for sleep).
It’s common to think about your next race or speed workout, but it’s also important to balance running with other forms of exercise to strengthen and improve different muscle groups. Cross-training can help prevent overuse injuries, such as tendinitis, runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis and shin splits. Including a variety of high-impact and low-impact exercises in your workout routine can strengthen other muscle groups and prevent burnout while making you a stronger and more efficient runner.
Prioritize Rest Days
Just as cross-training plays an important role in a runner’s regimen, rest days cannot be overlooked, either. Since running results in muscle and tissue breakdown, adequate rest and recovery is what primes the body to come back for subsequent runs and workouts. Rest days not only allow physical rest but mental rest, as well. Giving your mind a break from the rigors of training can be freeing and necessary to help you come back stronger and more motivated.
Pay Attention To Probiotics
We are just beginning to understand the health benefits associated with our gut bacteria. The research on probiotics is just in its infancy, and there is a lot more to be learned; however, we do know that 70 to 80 percent of the body’s immune system resides in the digestive tract. Ensuring that you have a healthy digestive tract can aid in boosting immunity. Probiotics also offer many other health benefits, including managing anxiety and improving mood.
To increase your probiotic intake, consider adding more fermented foods to your diet. Onions, cabbage, garlic, asparagus, tempeh and yogurt all have live probiotic strains, as do some newer food options like chips, protein powders and drink mixes (the last two of which can be easily tossed into a smoothie). Need another reason to consume more probiotics? Many probiotic-rich foods also offer other nutrients, like fiber, micronutrients and protein!
In short, the new year can be a wonderful time to check in with your body and set new goals. Health doesn’t have to mean elimination—making positive lifestyle changes is a great way to keep a healthy mindset and support your daily and athletic pursuits year-round.