With the race season quickly approaching, we wanted to help you make sure you are ready. It can be exciting to gauge where you are at fitness wise and to see the hard work of the summer and fall pay off. If you are a seasoned veteran, you know that there is more than just showing up on time that helps make for a successful and pleasant race. The right shoes, socks, and fuel can propel your race day to another level. Continue reading for some tips and links to products and pages to help you be ready to PR this race season. For our upcoming race calendar, click here.
Shoes and Socks:
We can start with the basics, shoes.
One of the great things about the sport is that it doesn’t require a whole lot of equipment to play and practice. That being said making sure you are in the right shoe and that it is a quality pair. Most shoes have the lifespan of 400-500 miles. Typically the tread wearing away is a good sign that your due for a new pair. Activity tracking apps like Garmin, Strava, or Trackster can help you track your shoe lifespan.
Another thing to be cautious of is that 1 mile in a pair of shoes at work is the same as 1 mile running. The shoes can’t tell the difference. Secondly, we want to make sure you are in the right type of shoe for your gate. We have a gait analysis at MRC that can help determine if you need a stability shoe or neutral. The stability shoes help prevent you from overpronating, which can reduce stress on your feet, ankle, knees, and hips. This can help reduce the risk of injury from running.
Check out this vintage video of our store and how much has changed since then!
Moving on to socks.
A common thing most people can overlook is the quality of sock they wear when running. While most people can get by using a plain cotton sock, many people know the difference a high quality performance sock can make. We have a wide variety of brands, that offer different materials and thickness. Balega is a popular brand for people who desire maximum cushion in their socks. Swiftwick typically is liked because of its think nylon-like, blister resistant material. These are one of my favorite for race days. Feetures lands somewhere in between the two with a good synthetic mixture that hugs the foot well, while also having a higher cushion option. Darn Tough is a newer brand we carry that features a merino wool material, these are quickly becoming one of mine and the stores personal favorites.
If you wanted a top of the line sock OS1st will most likely not be beat. They have a super high quality material as well as a compression aspect. They have multiple lines including plantar fasciitis, bunion, and overall high performance socks. They also have knee high compression socks and calf sleeves as well as many other injury preventative/rehabilitating sleeves and braces. If you are dealing with any injury there is a good chance we have something that can help.
Nutrition plays a giant role in training. Your energy is determined by your caloric intake, which is either stored in your liver at glycogen (first 1000 calories) or it will be processed into fat/triglycerides. As you begin aerobic activity your body begins to use the glycogen and eventually will begin using the calories stored in the fat cells. This pretty much means that having some quick digesting calories and carbs before the run can help you feel energized. An example is gu gels or honey stinger waffles.
While sugar and carbs sometimes get a bad rap, when consumed correctly and at the right time it can contribute to that necessary energy for muscle function and exercise. We have a variety of quick carb nutrition before the run at the store. Some people prefer one method over the other but the best way to find out what you like best and what agrees with your body the best is to try them out. I prefer gu gels for my quick needs and the gummy’s if I have time to enjoy them.
Equally as important, is making sure you are hydrated. Your body is almost 3/4 water. When you run or exercise you are likely to sweat and be depleted of water. Dehydration can cause cramping, muscle fatigue, headaches, overheating, and can prolong your recovery time. Just drinking water might not be enough depending on your diet. Electrolytes are essential for your muscle contractions and keeping your pH level balanced. Nuun and saltstick are two brands we carry that can help make sure you have electrolytes and minerals to help prevent dehydration.
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Many other vitamins and minerals like magnesium, iron/ferritin, and vitamin d come into play when you are doing serious aerobic and anaerobic training. If you have had a history of feeling very fatigued, light-headed, and maybe passing out when it comes to endurance events, it may be a smart idea to get blood tests done and see if you are deficient in anything. Even if you aren’t doing endurance training, it is never a bad idea to do some bloodwork and make sure you are not at risk of a deficiency.
For the most part, during performance is similar to before. If you activity isn’t longer than 45 minutes you typically should be fine without any nutrition or supplementation during it. As you get closer to 90 minutes and longer, making sure you replace fluids and intake some carbs definitely won’t hurt. Once again some gels are a popular way to keep the glycogen chambers going. Chews and sports beans are a good quick way too if the gel texture isn’t your style. Powders like Tailwind can help get you both the carbs while also covering the electrolytes, essentially gatorade with more endurance focused formulas. Depending on the length of your event, the “during” could also qualify almost as the “after”. In this case you will want some protein as well to make sure your muscles are recovering and functioning well. Optimal ratio in that case is 3:1 carb to protein ratio.
Afterwards the big focus is once again carbs, but this time also protein. Once again that 3:1 to 4:1 ratio of carb to protein is proven to be optimal in muscle recovery. A good benchmark for protein is getting at least 20g within 30-45 minutes after your activity. One mode of recovery nutrition we have at the store are Hammer Nutrition. It will be just as important rehydrate after your activities. For each pound of water you sweat you need to drink at least 16oz of water. Making sure you get those electrolytes in and rehydrating will also help reduce soreness, inflammation, and prevent headaches or dizziness.
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Sleep is the bread and butter.
It is recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. While this may be hard and it could be easy to forget about it and survive on coffee and dextrose (Guilty!), sleep is our #1 way of recovering from working out and racing and just living life. One concept that I didn’t realize, and still find myself needing a reminder, is that we don’t become “fitter” or in get better shape promptly right after a run or workout. You don’t develop the aerobic and physical gains from activity until like a week afterward and typically 2ish weeks.
This is why recovery and sleep is super important if you want to continually develop and grow your fitness. When we sleep we produce HGH(Human Growth Hormone), which is responsible for muscle building and and growth. If you are lacking in sleep you are preventing the maximum and optimal amount of muscle recovery. Even better, when you get a consistent sleep schedule you body’s circadian rhythm helps you produce HGH more efficient. So go to sleep, you deserve it.
Stretching and Exercises are the meat and potatoes.
While the jury is still out on whether stretching is beneficial, I believe that at the very least making sure you are warmed up and maintaining good mobility will help you prevent injury and help you perform more consistently. One of the most important muscle groups that I have found if you ignore it can leave to injury is the lower calf/achilles. A common injury that many runners have experienced is achilles tendonitis. Typically it is due to tight calves, and can be prevented by stretching and proper warm up to the soleus muscle. I like to do a simple exercise where I get down on one knee and do a lunge forward with my hand(s) on my bend knee and try and push the knee over the toes. A physio once told me the goal should be to be able to put a pen between your toe and the wall and your knee can touch the wall (low-key hard and takes practice).
Another typical mobility issue that can lead to injury is lack of hip mobility. If you can’t get a full stride your body is compensating in another way, glutes, lower back, quad, hamstring. There have been studies linking lack of hip mobility to frequency of injuries. So stretching out those hips could help improve that mobility and reduce injury. A exercise and stretch I like is the common figure-4 stretch, as well as lunges and spider-walks.
This also leads into another muscle group, and the last I’ll mention, those glutes. Your glutes are very important part in running and any other form of exercise. A good way to warm them up is body weight squats as well as that figure-4 stretch. Lunges will even help get your glutes firing too. A really good warm-up routine that covers all these muscles is a mini-band warmup routine. During this there is a lot of flexion and abduction to activate and warmup those muscles.Here is an example of one of those warmup routines.
Other tools to help you feel fresh.
Some tools that people can use to warm up are:
- Stretch Bands
- Massage guns
- These help you stretch and warmup the muscles as well as help release scar tissue along the muscles.
- similar to massage guns at a fraction of the cost. They too can help trigger-point tight muscles and knots to get your muscles loose and warmed up for you run.
- One of my favorite ‘rollers’ is simply a lacrosse ball for those muscle in my feet that are hard to stretch, at the store we have a top of the line version in the r3 roller from roll recovery.
Some tools to help you cooldown and recover are:
- Stretch bands (again)
- Rollers (again, massage guns too)
- Ice Baths
- Cryotherapy/Ice baths forces your body to change up it’s blood-flow. This reduces inflammation and promotes quicker recovery.
- Muscle/nerve stimulation devices
- A popular trend has been muscle and nerve stimulation devices like Firefly, at the store we carry KTTape’s Recovery+ Wave.
- These help stimulate and contract muscles to promote blood flood and speed up recovery. Some studies have shown they can increase blood flow by 400%.
- A popular trend has been muscle and nerve stimulation devices like Firefly, at the store we carry KTTape’s Recovery+ Wave.
- Compression Socks/Sleeves
- Compression socks and sleeves help increase blood flow to help muscles recover.
One of our most popular items at the store are Goodrs. They are reasonably price and durable polarized sunglasses. I have committed to running and racing in sunglasses as much as I can. In my mind not squinting when running uses less energy than squinting. I’ll take everything I can get while racing those long distances. Another brand we carry are Tifosi. We also are one of the only stores to carry LuluLemon. This is a popular brand amongst men and women and I think everyone is really surprised at how much they like it. It is only sold in store but we are getting new stuff every month. If you mention this article we will give you 15% off LuluLemon apparel too! We also just got a bunch of really nice running hats. Another hot item at the store is Aftershokz wireless bone induction headphones. Try them, you’ll love them.
If you are needing fuel on those runs and long races we have a bunch of options for carrying them. Amphipod, spibelts, and flipbelts are great for carrying a few of your needs. Otherwise we have high quality hand carrying water bottles. For anyone looking for top of the line performance we have plenty water vests with pockets and bladders for your fueling and hydration.
Make it, not only look, but feel easy.
The super shoe era is among us. If you are a non believer then my best advice would be to try them for yourself. If you are road racing we have a collection of high performance speed/energy return focused shoes. On the trails, a trail shoe will help you get better grip and run to your potential. In addition to the right shoe, adding an insole can help your runs and races feel better as you are more supported throughout, COME DO OUR GAIT ANALYSIS.
While this was a pretty long and diverse list, I think I should stress that doing all of these with good effort will trump doing just 1 or two to the max. You can have super shoes but if you aren’t fueling correctly, the shoes wont save you. If you are fueling right but not doing complimentary exercises to prevent injury… you might get injured. Lastly if you are doing everything except getting enough sleep, that could be your downfall. Even if you do all things right, sometimes you just get unlucky. It can be a dirty sport. So it’s best to gear up, plan accordingly, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice when amping up training or getting ready for races. We would be happy to help and can even recommend many medical professionals in town if things go wrong. Happy Racing!