Time for your check-up

Our new resident coach Andrew Kastor has this simple four-point checklist to ensure you are looking after yourself in these unprecedented times

With practically all races on the calendar being cancelled this year (ugh!), it’s time to find some creative ways to stay fit, stay motivated and get our usual training in.

But, first and foremost, we need to make sure we’re taking good care of ourselves — both mentally and physically. Consider these tips as your building blocks.

Here are some simple steps to help keep you running strong and healthy this fall.

Listen to your body!

If you’re feeling any muscle, tendon or joint soreness during your training, stop. Now is not the time to push through the pain. Remember, it’s always better to take a couple of days off than to keep going when you aren’t feeling 100% and then inevitably have to sit out for a few weeks later. Be smart, train smart and listen to your body whenever it's sending clear signals that you need to push the pause button. You should finish an easy run feeling fresh, as if you could run the entire distance again. And if you don’t, do a quick mental and physical check-in to assess why not.

Be smart about recovery

Our bodies are going through a lot of stress right now, whether you're aware of it or not. And training — though it ultimately makes us feel better emotionally — adds to that load physically. Massages are a wonderful way to ease muscle tension. But if you don’t feel comfortable getting one from a professional right now (which is totally understandable, by the way), there are several risk-free alternatives to help your body recover between tough training sessions. Do some gentle stretches after you work out, try self-massage (with a foam roller, tennis ball, etc.) and elevate your legs post-run to help drain out metabolic waste created during training.

Prioritize sleep

Be kind to yourself and your body. Restful sleep is critical for repairing tissue damage from training, yet we often cheat ourselves out of getting enough sleep. Aim for eight hours a night, if possible. And if you're working from home and have time to slip in a short nap every now and then, even better. When my wife Deena (a professional marathoner) was training at her most competitive level, she would routinely sleep 11 to 12 hours per day (10 hours at night, plus a one-to-two hour nap in the afternoon).

Bolster your immune function

Vitamin D is critical for a healthy immune system, and Vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly common. The three biggest causes are poor dietary habits, lack of sun exposure (or use of sunscreen) and a sedentary lifestyle. Applying sunscreen will save our skin from harmful UV rays, but it also blocks “good" rays (UVB) from being absorbed by our skin cells. I tell all my athletes to wash their faces and stinky parts in the shower, but to not apply soap to their arms, torso and legs.

Don’t scrub those parts clean either — simply rinse them off with water. Our bodies naturally produce cholesterol, and some of these cholesterol molecules make their way to the surface of our skin, where they sit and wait for sun light. Once the UVB rays strike the cholesterol on the surface of the skin, Vitamin D is formed for us to use throughout our bodies. So if you are enjoying good weather where you are, make sure you're getting just enough sun exposure to help produce Vitamin D naturally, in addition to eating plenty of green, leafy vegetables and staying active.

Do you have a training question in need of an expert answer? Andrew will be here every month to address some of the most common questions runners have around training. Tweet @wmmajors using the hashtag #AskAndrew or send us your question using this form.