When was the last time you woke up feeling great? How have your legs been feeling lately? If your body feels stiff and rarely feel up for a run, try these training and diet fixes to get more energy for running.
Check your iron levels
If you’re constantly feeling tired, see your GP and check your iron levels. “Up to 40% of women have inadequate iron intakes which can lead to deficiency,” says Dr Carrie Ruxton, a dietician on the Meat Advisory Panel (MeatMATTERS.com). “Iron is essential for making haemoglobin, which transports oxygen around the body, so one of the symptoms of low iron intake is shortness of breath and fatigue. Eat beef, pork and lamb. Choose lean versions and serve with plenty of green veg.”
Non-meat sources of iron include beans, dark green leafy veg, dried fruit such as raisins and apricots, pulses, lentils, kidney beans and tofu.
Don’t let the plan control you
When training hard, many of us stick rigidly to a strict training schedule. But it’s not such a bad thing to be flexible. Training plans are there to give you structure and a guideline, but ease back if your body needs a rest. “I’ve definitely become much better at listening to my body,” says Olympic athlete Jo Pavey. “In the past, I’d look at sessions I had to do in the last two weeks before a race and think I had to do them but sometimes I’d be exhausted. Now I am more flexible. If I’m too tired and my legs feel really bad, there’s no point in doing that final key session if all it’s doing is making my legs worse for race day.”
Don’t pile on the pressure
Never follow a hard session with another hard session the next day. Always allow a few days’ recovery in between harder sessions. “Having at least one rest day a week is important and if you feel tired, unwell or generally under the weather, don’t be afraid to take some time off,” says Professor John Brewer, Head of School of Sport, Health and Applied Science (SHAS) at St Mary’s University (stmarys.ac.uk).
Allow yourself an extra easy week
“Add in an extra week of low volume training to allow your body to recover properly,” says running coach George Anderson (runningbygeorge.com). “Some people find that hard if it’s not on the schedule. There’s something very satisfying about ticking off boxes on a training plan but often you can do that to your detriment. If your legs are aching and your training plan says you have to smash a really tough hill session, you’re not doing your body any favours.”
Monitor your heart rate
With wearable tech, it’s easy enough to monitor your resting heart rate. Do it first thing in the morning when you wake up. “If you’re five to seven beats a minute over your usual resting heart rate, it is an indication that your body hasn’t recovered from the last session,” says Anderson. “But if you decide to adjust your session, then you need to have an understanding of how to do that. A running coach can easily adapt a session for you.”
Carb sensitive? Take it easy…
“Some people are more sensitive than others to carbohydrates,” says Anderson. “If I have carb-heavy meal I feel sluggish. Play around with timings of food and experiment and learn which variables to tweak. If you’re having a really carb-heavy meal and you plan on going running a couple of hours later, it might not be a great move.”
Try anti-inflammatory foods
“There are three groups of foods that help reduce inflammation,” says Wilkinson. “Vegetables and fruits, including orange, red, yellow and green ones for antioxidant carotenoids, as well as purple and darker coloured fruits and veg such as berries for polyphenols (plant-based molecules that have antioxidant properties). Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, mackerel or sardines can have a natural anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Spices such as turmeric and ginger can have an anti-inflammatory effect too. So a meal of baked salmon with spicy ginger sauce with sweet potatoes and greens on the side could be an excellent inflammation-balancing, energy-restoring post-run meal.”
Try chia seeds
35-year-old Eva Hatfield from Surrey, a three-and-a-half-hour marathon runner and a former winner of the Human Race Richmond 10K, uses chia seeds regularly. “I take them as a pre-race supplement,” she says. “I mix them with coconut water and drink them 15 minutes before a half marathon or marathon to ensure I am well-hydrated.”
Choose the right carbs
Carbohydrates should make up around 50-60% of your daily calorie intake. Choose complex carbohydrates like brown rice, oats, millet, quinoa, rye and dark green leafy veg. Eat protein for muscle recovery (around three servings a day) and some healthy fats.
Try beetroot juice
“Beetroot is rich in nitrates, which are converted to the body to nitric oxide and this natural chemical seems to have a beneficial effect on blood flow, muscle contraction and energy efficiency so you end up needing less energy to fuel your muscles during exercise,” says Ruxton. “Beetroot juice is worth drinking once a day.”
Eat good fats
“Nuts and seeds provide a rich source of B vitamins and magnesium, both of which are essential for energy production,” says Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.com. “They also provide essential fatty acids which are beneficial fats that are important in sustaining energy.”
This article was written by Christina Macdonald for Women’s Running magazine (UK). For more expert training advice, inspiration and more every month, subscribe today!