Here it is: the holy grail of game-changing running habits. These simple yet effective running hacks have helped mother runners worldwide stay injury-free, motivated, energized, and run faster.
While these running tips cover the spectrum of self-care from nutrition to recovery, they have one thing in common: consistency. In order to improve anything in your running (or life), you must make it a habit.
I’ve asked mother runners everywhere what simple acts have transformed their running. The result is 36 running habits that may help you troubleshoot areas of weakness and elevate your running performance.
36 running habits that will transform your running
Running Habit 1: Eating more post-run
Game-changer: Eat two meals after a long run or hard workout: Within an hour of finishing your run, eat a carb-dominate snack. Two hours after that, eat a protein-dominant meal. This refueling speeds up your recovery time by replenishing glycogen stores and giving your muscles the protein they need to heal the tiny tears from your workout. This helps you be ready to run sooner, ward off injury, and re-energize you so you can continue being a badass mom despite running more than you drive.
Related: 3 proven ways to refuel after a long run (+ yummy recipes)
Running Habit 2: Doing activation exercises before you run
Game-changer: Activation exercises “wake up” the communication between your nervous system and the muscles system so they’re ready to work together. This prevents muscles from being overworked and enhances your running efficiency. The result is being able to run faster and longer. Personally, activation exercises have eradicated muscle strains more effectively than stretching, icing, or rolling.
Running Habit 3: Doing active warm-ups
Game changer: Active warm-ups involving dynamic stretches and drills warm-up your muscles, getting them ready to work hard. This habit makes mother runners feel looser and more limber allowing them to run longer and easier.
Running Habit 4: Rolling with the Rollga roller
Game-changer: There’s some evidence that foam rolling before running can prevent injuries and after running can decrease delayed onset muscle fatigue. While the evidence isn’t overwhelming, most mother runners I’ve talked to (and myself included) agree that foam rolling feels good and seems to help recovery. The Rollga roller is hands-down my favorite foam roller because it’s like a hybrid of a foam roller and a bunch of lacrosse balls. The bumps hit the right spots in the tight muscles and it allows you to roll two legs at a time. Anecdotally, this roller has helped my legs feel fresh faster.
Running Habit 5: Applying CBD Pain Relief Cream
Game-changer: Using CBD cream on sore muscles before running and after can make you feel better…instantly! I was given several to try from my doctor. I found Good For Pain Relief CBD cream to be the most effective on my injured hamstring and plantar fasciitis. During runs, it helped me run pain-free longer and it immediately relieved pain after. But please note, there is no concrete evidence for humans (just rats) that CBD helps heal injuries but it does relieve pain. This should not be used to “ignore” an injury. It’s best used on familiar and bothersome niggles that you know aren’t going to worsen. Note: Get 15% off with code MOTHERRUNNERS15.
Running Habit 6: Taking regular Epsom salt baths
Game-changer: Taking regular Epsom salt baths, particularly after hard workouts, can help reduce soreness and inflammation of muscles. Like a lot of running recovery treatments, there isn’t overwhelming evidence to support this claim but some studies do show that the combination of magnesium, sulfate, and warm water relaxes muscles and aids recovery. Personally, I’ve been a believer in Epsom salt baths for recovery for years because of their noticeable benefits.
Running Habit 7: Doing a mobility routine before runs
Game-changer: Mobility is important for runners as we must move through a range of motions to run. Regular mobility routines will improve your running mechanics such as knee drive. This can add power, correct improper running form, improve efficiency and performance, and decrease the chance of injury.
Related: Mobility routine for runners
Running Habit 8: Strength training 20-30 minutes two times a week
Game-changer: Mother runners say strength training has been a huge difference-maker in the power of their running, making running faster requires less effort. A recent study finds the benefits of lifting heavy weights with low reps. Aim to do low reps (5 to 10) with heavy weights (about 75 percent of your max) twice a week. Simple moves like barbell squats, deadlifts, step-ups, lunges, and calf raises will do the trick.
Related: 30-minute at-home strength plan
Running Habit 9: Lying in child’s pose before getting out of bed in the morning
Game-changer: Mother runner Alex says laying in child’s pose helps her get ready to run. Indeed, this yoga pose is known to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. It’s a perfect (and productive) way to start the day!
Related: 6 yoga moves for runners
Running Habit 10: Having prepackaged snacks and special toys for stroller runs
Game-changer: Prepping special stroller-only snacks and toys helps kids get extra excited for stroller runs and stay in the stroller longer, allowing for more miles (and more fun!).
Related: 12 genius stroller running tips
Running Habit 11: Limiting alcohol intake
Game-changer: Mother runners have noticed that when they drink alcohol, they don’t sleep well and are less hydrated. Indeed, alcohol can impact the body’s ability to maintain optimal hydration levels, regulate body temperature, repair muscle damage, and recover properly. Limiting alcohol intake helps mother runners feel rejuvenated and energized.
Running Habit 12: Scheduling rest
Game-changer: Rest days are when our bodies build up what we broke down. We can’t get stronger without this time. Scheduling down weeks every 3-8 weeks of training and a day of rest a week allows our bodies to recover and absorb the work.
Running Habit 13: Running early in the morning
Game-changer: Running in the morning helps moms ensure they get their runs in and that they’re focused on other things the rest of the day. It also increases energy despite less sleep. In fact, this habit is the most popular game-changer among mother runners. As mother runner Stephanie says, “I like to go early before everyone else is up so I don’t have to schedule my run around everyone else’s schedules.”
Running Habit 14: Early bedtimes for the family
Game-changer: Making sure your kids go to bed early so you can go to bed early and catch those zzzz’s is paramount to running well and staying healthy. During a workout, your muscles break down on a cellular level. Sleep allows the body to repair those cells, enabling you to bounce back stronger and faster. Sleep experts suggest that you need to sleep an extra minute a night for every mile you run a week. So, if you run 60 miles a week, you need an extra hour of sleep a night.
Running Habit 15: Hemp hearts for recovery
Game-changer: Mother runners credit hemp’s ideal ratio of protein, omega-3’s and omega-6’s for fighting inflammation in the body, aiding in faster recovery. Throw some in a post-run smoothie. Get more recovery tips here including a 24-hour timeline.
Running Habit 16: Drinking water….all…day…long (and Nuun Hydration in the summer months for electrolytes.)
Game-changer: Your body needs water just to function and copious amounts if you’re a runner. Water is responsible for regulating body temperature, removing waste, helping bring energy to cells, and cushioning joints. Hydration is also key to improving recovery, minimizing injury and cramps, and maximizing performance. Mother runners have noticed that drinking water consistently throughout the day has kept them from bonking on their runs.
Related: How much water should runners drink
Running Habit 17: Putting out everything the night before down to the watch and socks
Game-changer: Readying your clothes before an early morning run ensures you get it done! This act takes the guesswork out of what to wear, lowers the chance of waking family members, and adds extra time to sip that coffee.
Running Habit 18: Getting a coach!
Game-changer: Hiring a running coach that individualizes your training can make a WORLD of difference in your performance. Personally, I never thought I could break 3 hours in the marathon. After getting a knowledgeable coach who cares, I am now aiming to run 15+ minutes below that time.
Running Habit 19: Taking salt tablets during summer running
Game-changer: Electrolyte drinks only do half the job for keeping you hydrated in the heat and humidity. You need to replenish the sodium you lose through sweat. Salt tablets are the best and most efficient way to do this, preventing muscle cramps and dehydration.
Running Habit 20: Drinking ginger regularly
Game-changer: Regular ginger intake helps with digestion by protecting and healing the gut, hastening the movement of food through the GI tract, and reducing flatulence, bloating, and cramps. Good digestion means you’re absorbing nutrients well. It also means fewer tummy troubles on the run. Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky have a yummy lemon gingerade recipe in their book, Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.
Running Habit 21: Keeping easy runs easy
Game-changer: Easy runs are where the magic happens. Running slow is when your body grows its capillaries and mitochondria, the vehicles for supplying fuel (oxygen) to your working muscles. Running easy also lets your body get better at burning fat, letting you run longer; lets you run more by saving you from injury; and, (icing on the cake) studies show, running more strengthens your bones, tendons, and joints. The result: stronger, faster, longer running.
Running Habit 22: Challenging yourself two times a week
Game-changer: Mother runner Jennifer shared what most of us can relate to: being a running mom can be exhausting! It can be easy to surrender to the exhaustion and not run. But setting a goal to run hard at least two times a week can dramatically improve your mental and physical stamina. “Getting into the habit of attempting my scheduled workouts no matter what was a ‘game-changer’ for me,” said Jennifer.
Often times, you’ll surprise yourself by what you can do. (Get a great round-up on different types of training runs here.)
Running Habit 23: Trying new things
Game-changer: Mother (ultra) runner Andrea notes the definition of insanity is trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Instead, be open to trying new training techniques. This could mean higher volume, more speedwork, more strength work, or even more rest.
Running Habit 24: Changing your shoes
Game-changer: Speaking of trying new things, that goes for shoes, too. If you have a history of injuries, there’s a chance your shoes could the culprit. I’ve worn the same brand and model for years. I did not want to stray. But after my husband surprised me with a pair of On Clouds shoes, many of my “niggles” went away…OVERNIGHT. I could hardly believe it!
Related: A proven guide for injury prevention
Running Habit 25: Having a goal
Game-changer: Goal-setting is key to staying motivated. Otherwise you’re running aimlessly literally and figuratively. Goals give you direction. The goal could be a certain weekly mileage, a race, or even just running a couple times a week. Always have one.
Running Habit 26: Sleeping enough!
Game-changer: Your body can’t operate in a depleted mode forever. It will breakdown in the form of illness, injury, or malaise. Prioritize rest over everything. This may mean only doing early morning runs a couple days a week or gradually moving up bedtimes.
Running Habit 27: Finding your crew
Game-changer: Studies show running with friends is a surefire way to keep you motivated. Running with other people keeps you accountable and is fun!
Related: 3 ways to find your running crew
Running Habit 28: Running to music
Game-changer: Running to music is also a huge motivator—it can make you run faster and longer.. Honestly, when I’m really into a song, I can’t wait to run to it (it’s my form of dancing). Check out The Mother Runners playlist on Spotify.
Running Habit 29: Knowing your WHY
Game-changer: It’s almost impossible to stick to something without buy-in. So, know why you run. Is it to relieve stress? To lose weight? To feel strong? Think about it. Share your why with other Mother Runners here. Your response could be featured on my Instagram account.
Running Habit 30: Scheduling runs
Game-changer: Don’t leave runs up to chance. Pre-planning when you’ll run eradicates stress of when you’ll fit it in and ensures it’ll happen (a.k.a.—no run-xiety, anxiety over when you’ll run). Get the childcare. Prep the kids. Get it done.
Related: 9 habits of healthy mother runners
Running Habit 31: Prepping kids for your runs
Game-changer: Speaking of prepping kids, telling attached kids that Grandma or Daddy will be there when they wake up, etc., lessens the chance for freak-outs when they realize mommy is not home. Inoculate meltdowns by cluing them into your plans.
Running Habit 32: Listening to your body
Game-changer: Most mother runners have the tendency to push through pain. Listening to your body, asking questions like the ones below will save you from injury and extended time-off:
Does just thinking of running make you feel exhausted or in pain?
Do you have a fever? Does your stomach hurt? Are you using the bathroom frequently? Can you walk without pain?
Have you felt tired, sick, or in pain for more than a day?
Do you feel worse as your run progresses?
If you answer yes to any of these, bag your run.
Running Habit 33: Drinking caffeine
Game-changer: Let’s face it, sometimes we need a little help to get out the door and keep moving throughout the day. Coffee and Optimum Nutrition’s Amino Energy drink have helped me stay energized on the days I don’t get enough rest. And bonus, studies show that caffeine can reduce perceived exertion making running feel easier. Disclaimer: Too much caffeine can have detrimental effects. And, getting enough sleep is best. But sometimes, that’s just not possible. Caffeine can help you stick to your goals.
Running Habit 34: Calling your physical therapist
Game-changer: Finding a physical therapist who understands runners is CRUCIAL to staving off injuries. When you have a niggle that lasts more than a couple days, call them up, figure out what exercises you should be doing, and nip that niggle in the bud! I learned this the hard way: nothing beats good ol’ physical therapy. It addresses the cause of the injury rather than just the pain.
Running Habit 35: Draining the legs
Game-changer: Propping your legs up on a wall post-run for 5-15 minutes has been heralded as an optimum post-run recovery routine for decades. While there lacks conclusive evidence that this helps drain lactic acid and fluid from your legs, it does stretch hamstrings and mother runners swear it helps accelerate recovery. Plus, it’s relaxing!
Running Habit 36: Having a morning routine
Game-changer: Elite parent runners Andi and Zach Ripley take less than 10 minutes every morning to stretch and strengthen their bodies. Making this part of their morning routine as much as that cup o’ joe has worked wonders in improving their running performance and keeping them healthy. Check out their routine on atozrunning.com.
Most often it’s the little things that can make a big difference. Being consistent in the habits here that are appropriate for you could set you up for a lifetime of happy running.
PS-I’d love to help you reach your running goals whether it be to run your first 5k or run competitively! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or check out my Coaching Services page!