A Runner’s State of Mind: The Method to the Madness

Are you training for your first organized distance race or simply looking to improve fitness through running? Well, there is more to the method than just the madness of going out there and running as many miles as you can. Below are five aspects of training that will enhance your exercise by promoting peak performance.

Warm-Up and Cool-Down

According to the American Council of Exercise (ACE), it is important to include a five to ten minute warm-up and cool-down period to all exercise programs. Warm-up activities prepare the body for conditioning, reducing the risk of injury. For runners, dynamic warm-ups such as high-knees, butt kickers, leg swings, shuffles, and lunges give the leg muscles a good stretch. On the other hand, the cool-down phase (which includes traditional static stretches), maintains flexibility and range of motion to reduce post-exercise soreness and allow your heart rate and breathing return to their normal rates. Traditional static stretches are beneficial and appropriate to include in a post-run cool-down session.

Speed Interval Training

A complete training program includes workouts that are progressive and vary in intensity as well as duration. Speed interval workouts can help train your body to run faster, which boosts your metabolism. As a result, your body burns more calories, which is something to consider if one of your goals is related to weight loss. It also promotes active recovery, which requires your body to recover while still working at a low-intensity. Speed interval workouts include short interval and tempo runs. These workouts can also help one determine his or her running pace for completing different distances. Short interval workouts, such as repetitive sprints of 100 to 200 meters, help you to become a faster runner by improving stride and frequency. Similarly, tempo runs, which are steady and slightly slower than your race pace, offer the same benefit but also build endurance by training you to maintain faster paces over moderate to longer distances. Overall, speed interval training improves speed and conditioning by promoting active recovery.  Your friendly BaySport personal trainers can work with you to develop a training program that will help you reach your running and fitness goals.


It is beneficial for all levels of runners to cross-train because it incorporates a combination of strength, flexibility, and endurance training of different muscle groups to your regular workout routine. In fact, cross-training is also effective in reducing the risk of injury. For example, both competitive athletes and everyday exercisers can benefit from core strength training to improve balance and stability. More specifically, core conditioning improves posture, reducing the amount of stress on the body and the types of muscular imbalances that can increase the risk of injury.

Moreover, cross-training promotes rehabilitation for overuse injuries, enhances overall fitness and movement efficiency, promotes active recovery, enhances motivation and offers the opportunity to learn and enjoy other sports or physical activities (i.e., Yoga, Pilates, Cycling, etc.) For women in particular, cross-training provides opportunities to maintain fitness levels during pregnancy.

Nutrition and Hydration

Nutrition and hydration are essential to a runner’s training program. A runner’s diet is important not only for maintaining good health, but also to promote peak performance. Diet recommendations for runners are similar to nutritional guidelines for non-runners. A balanced diet for healthy runners should include carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. ACE recommends 60-65% of your total caloric intake to include carbohydrates, 15-20% to include protein, and no more than 20-20% of fat.  Good examples of carbohydrates include whole grain pasta, rice, potatoes, fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grain breads. Carbohydrates are the best source of energy for athletes. As for fats, foods that are low in saturated fats and cholesterol, such as nuts, oils, and cold-water fish, provide essential fats called omega-3’s which help reduce the risk of certain diseases. Good sources of protein include grass-fed, wild or pasture-raised meats, low mercury fish and seafood, low-fat dairy products, poultry, and legumes. Proteins function as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. They are also essential for the production and functionality of enzymes and hormones. Vitamins and minerals are important to good health as the body does not manufacture these nutrients. Although not a source of energy, vitamins and minerals are critical co-factors in the storage and release of energy. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or dietitian to see if vitamin or mineral supplements are appropriate for you.

Hydration before, during, and after training is important to preventing dehydration and muscle cramps. When and how you hydrate can make or break your run. ACE recommends that if you are working out for 60-minutes or less, hydrate with small amounts of water every 10 to 15 minutes. If you are working out for more than 60-minutes, a sports drink beverage (e.g., Gatorade, Powerade, Vitamin Water, etc.) is recommended to replenish electrolytes.

Rest Days

Lastly, it is important to listen to your body and know your running threshold. Running too much or too hard in a short period of time without proper recovery can lead to overtraining and even injury. Rest days help prevent overuse injuries, restore glycogen stores, prevent mental burnout, build strength and reduce fatigue. If you think you are experiencing a running-related injury, visit your nearest BaySport physical therapy clinic for a 15-minute complimentary injury assessment by a licensed physical therapist who can provide guidance for injury management.

As one can see, in addition to progressively increasing running mileage, proper warm-up and cool-down activities, speed interval training, cross-training, proper nutrition and hydration, and rest days all promote peak performance. Listen to your body before, during, and after training. For more information on BaySport’s personal training and physical therapy services, log on to www.baysport.com.



Bryant, (Ph. D, FACSM), C. X., & Green, D. J. (2010). Ace personal trainer manual: the ultimate resource for fitness professionals. (4th ed.).San Diego: American Council on Exercise.

Fitzgerald, M. (2004). Eight benefits of cross-training. Runner’s World, Retrieved from http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-263–7420-2-1-2,00.html

U.S.Department of Agriculture, (2012). Myplate. Retrieved from website: http://www.choosemyplate.gov


John Paul de Guzman is the assistant manager of the LiveWell atCHIPSFitnessCenter at Texas Instruments inSanta Clara,CA. He received his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from San Francisco State in 2010 and is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer. He has participated in several local organized distance races. This past October, he ran in the 2012 Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, CA, and finished the half-marathon ranked 13/253 men in his age division (M25-29).

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