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Improve Your Running Off Road

You put in so much hard work in training. Happily, there are plenty of steps you can take in the hours when you’re not running that can dramatically improve your running life, and help you reach your fitness goals.

Get Some Sleep

Research has shown that when you’re sleep deprived, you tend to eat more. A study in the April 2006 issue of American Journal of Epidemiology, found that those who slept five hours or less a night were more likely to gain weight than those who slept at least seven hours per night. And a study in the January 2009 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who are sleep deprived tend to snack more and crave more carbs. Aim for eight hours of sleep each night.

Drink Water

Even slight dehydration can slow down your runs and make each mile feel more difficult. What’s more, thirst can lead to a general feeling of fatigue that can lead to a serious case of the munchies. So stay hydrated. It sounds like fuzzy science, but nutrition experts agree on this recommendation: Each day aim to consume half your body weight in ounces of fluids. So if you weigh 200 pounds, aim for 100 ounces of water each day. If you weigh 130 pounds, aim for 65 ounces per day. But avoid pounding the fluids right before a workout—that could lead to GI distress. Instead, keep a water bottle close at hands and sip fluids in small intervals throughout the day, so you’re in a constant state of hydration.

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies

Loading up on fruits, veggies, and other whole foods can boost your mood and help counter negative thinking and feelings of defeat, says Jackie Dikos, an Indianapolis-based sports dietitian, Certain micronutrient imbalances have been linked to negative thinking, she says. Magnesium plays a role in the body’s reaction to stress. Vitamin D may improve symptoms of depression, and gut bacteria, pre- and probiotics all play a role in brain function and mental health, Dikos adds. “By choosing whole foods we are more likely to obtain these much-needed nutrients, supporting our body and mind,” Dikos says.

Keep Your Shoes Ship Shape

Worn out or ill-fitting shoes are a common cause of injury. For instance, you may compensate for a painful blister by altering your gait. And that gait change can lead to injury. Replace your shoes every 300 to 500 miles. Make a note in your training log any time you buy new shoes, and keep track of the miles you put on them. Any time you get a new pair, take them for a few short easy test runs to make sure that the fit is good before you wear them to the track or on a long run. Make sure to do at least 20 miles in any new pair before race day. And take care of your shoes while you have them. Keep them in a dry area at room temperature. If you hit some puddles on your run and return with your feet soaking wet, stuff your shoes with newspapers. This will help them dry out. And no matter how dirty your shoes get, do not put them through the washing machine. This can break down the cushioning. Instead, let your shoes dry, then scrape off the dirt.

Get Up

Unfortunately, your morning workout isn’t enough to counter the negative health impact that goes along with a full day of sitting at the office. You should move as much as possible during the day. Set an alarm to get up and get up and stretch each hour. Schedule regular walk breaks throughout the day. Better yet, talk with your boss about getting a standing workstation. A study published in the October 2015 issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine, showed that workers with sit-stand desks stood 60 minutes more a day at work compared with their co-workers with sitting desks, and they walked six minutes more each day, which led to burning up to 87 more calories per day than those who sat. And there’s evidence that standing while you work may boost your brainpower too. A study published in the December 2015 issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed significant improvements in memory, attention, and behavior among students who used standing desks.