As a female athlete, the one constant in my exercise routine is regular running. Running is the cheapest, easiest, most accessible, most adaptable form of exercise, especially for a woman living in the Midwest.
From regular, year-round distance running in my 20s, to running during my pregnancies to stay healthy and active, to losing the postpartum baby weight—running has always had a special place in my heart. I also have a wonderful husband who not only encourages me to stay healthy and active but is a good running buddy when we strap our two young boys into the running strollers and take off as a family. That being said, running can look very different when comparing women and men. Our bodies are uniquely made, with some significant advantages, to take on the sport of distance running.
If you’re a woman considering participating in one of the races in the upcoming Christie Clinic Illinois Race Weekend, my advice to you is DO IT! In the running world, women are slowly overtaking our male counterparts when it comes to participation in distance racing. In the US, women make up approximately 57% of finishers. Women are more likely to stick to a training routine, as well as determine a well-balanced, thoughtful training program when committing to a race. Below are some helpful tips for women (and men) who are ready to take part in one of the many races this April.
#1 WOMEN ARE BUILT DIFFERENTLY
Women’s body shape tends to be leaner, more petite, and have bone structure that supports distance running. That being said, we also have increased flexibility due to our body structure and hormonal fluctuations. That makes stretching, pre- and post-workout, as well as cross training, a necessity. When planning the timing of your workouts or runs, make sure you add sufficient time before and after to stretch and recover. This may add minutes to your schedule, but it will pay off in the end.
#2 DON’T SKIP THE CROSS TRAINING
The concept that weights are for men only is a thing of the past. More research is hinting at the importance of cross training not only for female endurance athletes, but for long-term health benefits for women. If possible, incorporate weight training such as weighted squats and lunges as well as core strengthening as part of your training routine. Even one day a week can turn into major gains on subsequent runs.
#3 CHANGE YOUR DIET
We all know the importance of diet when it comes to health benefits, but it can also transform your training. If you want to allow running to transform your health, start with the foundation of diet and hydration. Women should be shooting for 90 ounces of water a day and limiting the amount of sugar or sugar-substitute drinks in our diet. If you want to take your training to the next level, consider laying off the sauce for a few weeks, as alcohol can be a big deterrent in advancing your training. Additionally, most women are not getting enough protein in their diets. Focus on lean meats and protein sources, especially after runs to replenish muscle breakdown and promote muscle buildup.
#4 DON’T BE INTIMIDATED
At the end of the day, know that you are more than capable of becoming a female runner. Start small, work your way up, schedule your workouts, find an accountability partner, but most of all, ENJOY IT! Running is one of the healthiest forms of exercise and can transform your mental, physical, and emotional health.
See you at the finish line!
Emily Foertsch is a Nurse Practitioner in the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Department at Christie Clinic and specializes in the prevention and correction of injuries and disorders of the skeletal system and associated muscles, joints, and ligaments.