Imagine this. A life balance where you have the perfect amount of time to drink coffee, sit in traffic, get your work done, cook dinner, spend time with family and train for your next race as much as you would like. Ha, that's a good one right? If you are like me, that might have happened once in the last 5 years. As we live our lives, life tends to happen and it just gets hard to fit everything in. To have a proper balance and maximize our time, we need to set good habits so that our bodies automatically take on the task without us much having to think about them.
When we talk about habits, some can actually serve more important than others. What I mean is that there are certain habits that can actually create a chain of other habits to make real change in our everyday lives. These have been termed keystone habits.
So lets take a look at three simple keystone habits that can radically change your training or everyday running.
1) GO TO BED EARLIER
I know, I know, you have heard this a billion times. But that doesn't make it any less true. Sleep is critical to any athlete to maximize recover, which is just as important as the runs themselves. Many studies have shown that 7-9 hours of sleep consistently provides better recovery, more concentration and more speed.
But that's not where it stops. It's pretty common sense that the earlier we go to bed, the earlier we can wake up feeling better. This means we aren't as rushed, making sure we have plenty of time to eat a healthy breakfast and start your day off right nutritionally. In addition, it allows us to tackle our second keystone habit...
2) BUILD IN TIME TO STRETCH BEFORE AND AFTER YOUR RUN
A stretch routine before and after can be critical in staying away from the injury bug. Reverse engineer your time allotted for your workout and build in 15-20 minutes total for a quick warm up and cool down. Stretching intentionally before and after every run has a huge impact on the quality of your workout and leads you into the following workout with much less risk for injury and a real chance to improve each and every run.
Below are some warmups and cooldowns that I use often.
Lunge Sequence - Warmup
Myrtl Routine - Hip Flexor work/Cool Down (Add static stretching to the end of your workout now that your muscles are warm)
3) PLAN MEAL CHOICES FOR THE WEEK
Personally, I'm the worst at this one. However, the proper foods provide fuel for your body which is critical to running improvement. Many times when we don't plan well, we often want to just grab something quick when we are low on time. This can bog us down, especially if you are running later in the day. If you take 20-minutes before you go to the grocery store to plan out food options, it can save so much time. Pack your lunch the day before and that's one less thing you have to worry about around your run.
The truth is there are thousands of things that can improve your training and these are just three. I would challenge you to take one at a time and start implementing them into your daily routine. Once you have that down, pretty soon, you don't even have to think about it. Then proceed to the next.