Have you heard another mom say “running saved my life” and wondered what she meant? She probably was referring to the amount of mental clarity she receives after a great movement session.

Running helps you physically, but did you know that running can actually help you emotionally and mentally too? Yes, the fabled “runner’s high” is real.

Studies have shown that cardio training—like running—helps moms of all ages and stages of motherhood reduce the risk of anxiety, depression, dementia and insomnia. Exercise produces neurotransmitters such as epinephrine, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. These fun molecules influence your energy levels, thoughts and emotions. In fact, norepinephrine is the chemical that helps moderate the brain’s response to stress, helping you release some of the mental strain of mom-life.

Additionally, studies show that running can help you improve overall brain performance—like decision-making, higher thinking, productivity, creativity and learning. Oh, and did you know that it can help lessen PMS symptoms too? Check out this blog from Dr. Jason Karp to learn 6 facts about running as a female.

So lace up your running shoes and hit the pavements (or trails). But before you do, here are 7 things to do before your next run.

How to prepare for a run

1. Choose your plan

Whether you are new to running or you’ve completed several races, choosing the right training plan is crucial for successfully crossing the finish line. We want you to do more than just cross the finish line, we want you to have a great experience. Training plans can easily lead to injury if you begin with the wrong distance, duration or frequency.

The plan you choose should depend on your current fitness level and running habits. It’s important to build a strong structural foundation during the first few weeks if you’re hoping for a pain-free experience. This will keep you strong, healthy and safe.

Take your running to the next level with Run Club+®, FIT4MOM’s 8-week guided training program for 5K, 10K or half marathon distance runs. They provide opportunities to learn and improve your running techniques through our detailed training plans, coaching and community support.

2. Check your gear

Running doesn’t require much gear, which makes it a simple activity to begin. However, there are a few key items that can make your runs more comfortable and safe. Here is a list of recommendations to help you get through your training—and keep you and your kiddos safe.

  • Water bottle
  • Shoes
  • Sports bra
  • Sun protection: Hats, visors, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Layers
  • Maternity support belt
  • Watch
  • ID
  • Wearable storage

3. Do a stroller check

Just like a bicycle, a stroller does need periodic maintenance. We strongly recommend following manufacturer guidelines regarding the recommended age for infants to come along in a jogging stroller. For instance, B.O.B. recommends the baby be 6-8 months old and able to sit forward-facing (not in an infant car seat).

Most jogging strollers provide minimal support for small children, so always secure seat belts. It’s a good idea to research whether the stroller seat can be reclined back or propped forward for your child’s comfort and safety.

A locked front wheel prevents you from turning while the wheel is weight-bearing and can trip you up if you’re not used to it. Make sure to secure the included safety strap around your wrist when running.

You should not run if your stroller has any flat tires. You may consider carrying a portable tire pump in your stroller in case one of your tires loses air while you’re on a run. If you do notice flattening and a portable pump does not help, you should discontinue running with the stroller until the problem can be resolved.

4. Choose your route

Depending on the training plan, your daily running goal could be working towards a specific time or distance. To achieve your goal for the day, you can either  pre-calculate your distance or find a route where it’s easy to calculate your accumulated distance, such as a running track or running path with mile markers. A treadmill is also an easy way to monitor distance. If you run outside, check out these resources to find running trails:

  • MapMyRun.com 
  • RunKeeper.com 
  • Strava.com 
  • Garmin.com 
  • Alltrails.com  
  • Trails.com 
  • HikingProject.com 
  • TrailLink.com

Letting someone know where you’re running, especially if you’re trying out new trails, is important for safety.

5. Know how to warm up

A good warm-up is dynamic and will gradually increase intensity while simultaneously increasing the range of motion. Dynamic means the exercises move and you are not holding a stretched or elongated position for longer than a few seconds. For an example, try this 5-minute running warm-up designed by FIT4MOM: https://ondemand.fit4mom.com/programs/runningwarmup

6. Plan your cross training

Running is a repetitious sport that relies on the same impact-based movement over and over, and as such, it works the same muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Even with proper form, running can overwork parts of your body and lead to injury if not balanced with appropriate rest, active recovery and cross-training. Which is why it’s equally important to make time for other types of exercise. 

7. Learn to stretch it out

A good cool-down consists of movements that will decrease the heart rate while releasing the muscles which were worked. Walking is a great start to your post-run cool down. Slow down your pace, allow yourself to catch your breath and let your heart rate slow down gradually. This is much safer than immediately stretching after stopping your running pace. Once you feel your heart rate slowing, then you can move into your flexibility training. Not sure how to stretch? Try this short post-run stretch from FIT4MOM for all moms: https://ondemand.fit4mom.com/programs/runstretch

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