First-time half marathoners and experienced runners alike have spent the early summer months setting goals and training hard for long-distance races – including the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon taking place this weekend in Chicago.

With only a few days out, we caught up with Chicago-based Master Trainer and owner of On Your Mark gym, Emily Hutchins, for last-minute running tips and advice on what runners should be thinking about before and after they cross the finish line.

Q: Running a half marathon can put a lot of stress on your joints. How can runners properly prepare for this? 

EMILY HUTCHINS (EH): I recommend incorporating mobility exercises into daily training, which focus on strength and joint rotation. It’s important to keep your joints moving properly, and including a Lunging Hip Flexor stretch before every workout will be good for the hips, which undergo a lot during a long run. Kneel on one of your knees, and place the opposite foot on the floor in front of you with your knee bent. Lean forward, stretching your hip toward the floor. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, and switch sides and repeat.

Q: We’ve heard runners say that their feet take a beating during long distance runs. Do you have any advice on how to avoid this?

EH: For those who are running the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon, plan to wear shoes you’ve already worn through a couple of long training runs, but that are still relatively fresh. If you’re an avid runner, you should be changing your shoes every six months or 600 miles, which ever happens first. If your shoes start to become uncomfortable or worn down sooner, I’d suggest changing them out more frequently. Looking ahead, it may be worth switching out your shoes or buying a new pair before resuming your regular workouts and trainings for the next race.

Q: Why are the first 30-45 minutes after a race so important? How can runners recover right after they cross the finish line?

EH: Runners lose critical nutrients during their strenuous sweat sessions. And, it’s the first 30-45 minutes after a workout or run when it’s important to maximize the benefits of recovery. An ideal regimen will help recover and refuel many aspects of a runner’s body – from replenishing electrolytes and refueling exhausted muscles to strengthening bones. So it’s very important that in that period, you think about what you eat and drink. I suggest drinking a lowfat chocolate milk post-race because it provides fluids and electrolytes to rehydrate and replenish those nutrients lost in sweat.  It also tastes great!

Rock ‘n’ Roll makes it easy for runners to refuel during that critical post-run window by offering chocolate milk at the finish line.

Q: That all sounds great, but should runners be worried about sugar content in chocolate milk?

EH: In my experience as a longtime trainer, I know that post-workout carbs are essential to an active runner’s diet, especially after completing a half or full marathon. Lowfat chocolate milk has the right carb:protein ratio that's scientifically proven to help your exhausted muscles refuel.  The sugar in chocolate milk happens to be a naturally-occurring simple carbohydrate, meaning it is easily broken down by the body to be re-used as energy. Therefore, the sugar in chocolate milk isn’t harmful after a workout; it gives you just the right amount of energy you need to refuel without burning out, or hitting the wall.

Q: Any last thoughts on how runners can stay motivated on race day?

Trust your training. You’ve worked hard and have stayed dedicated to a consistent training and recovery plan for months, so know that your body is ready for this moment. Be confident in yourself, but most importantly, have fun!


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