18 Running Hacks for ’18

Here are some tips for the new year.  Please use the comments section to identify which ones you agree with, disagree with, or just want more information.  Many of these can be posts of their own.  Let me know some tips of your own!

  1. Break your runs up into chunks. If a workout or distance seems daunting or makes you anxious, split it up into manageable sub-tasks.  Just like any major undertaking, develop a plan with checkpoints along the way.  If a 20 mile run seems impossible, treat it like two 8 mile runs and an easy 4 miler – runs you could easily do on their own.
  2. Build a 2 song play-list for intervals – one song for hammering hard; the other for rest periods.  Put the list on repeat and be able to skip to the next track at the end of each interval.  If you are really hardcore, use a song you hate for the hard interval because the faster you run, the quicker you can change it.
  3. When charging up hills, take deep inhales, making them as long as you can, but quickly force your exhales.  A tip from Chi Running, this is supposed to make oxygen more readily available.  For me, it at least provides something on which to focus other than the top of the hill.
  4. Go faster.  If your mind begins to sabotage your run by inventing reasons to quit, pick up the pace.  At these times, you have a tendency to slow down and let your form collapse while trying to overcome your mind.  However, this can also be detrimental.  Do the opposite.  Smile, run tall, and even speed up.  Shake out your arms and reset your form.  This is a way to fake it until you make it.  You will have a hard time arguing with your mind, but you can rely on your legs and body to prove it wrong.
  5. Lower your hands.  If you are struggling, drop your hands just a bit.  In other words, if your arms are swinging with a 90 degree bend at the elbow, open it to 95 or 100 degrees for a while.  It will help you relax and it may just be enough change to refresh your whole form or mindset.
  6. Play a song on repeat.  If you run with music and notice a boost or flow during a certain song, put it on repeat until you don’t.  Milk it.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending an hour Miley Cyrus or One Direction.  Just accept it, you don’t have to tell anyone.  Also, note that one song that puts you in the zone one day may may just be annoying on another day.
  7. Use body glide and bandaids to prevent chub rub and bloody nipples.  You probably already know this from not doing this once.
  8. Lean forward from your ankles.  Running should be a controlled fall.  If you were to stand and fall forward, your first step would catch you, if you continued with that fall, the next step would catch you.  This process is running.  You shouldn’t have to push off, just lean forward, but not at the waist.
  9. After a long run lie on your back and elevate your legs straight up.  This basically flushes the blood out of your legs so it can be replaced when you stand up.  Danny Dreyer, Chi Running, equates it to an ice bath for preventing soreness.
  10. Keep a golf ball, lacrosse ball, or similar rubber massage ball at work to roll under each foot during the day.  This not only helps with tightness in the foot, but all the way up the leg into the hamstrings and glutes.  Use it sitting and standing.
  11. Keep a tennis ball around to sit on for targeted glute and hamstring work.
  12. If you have a desk job, stand up or walk during conference calls that don’t require typing or video.  Make a game out of it and play Buzzword Bingo – Do air squats or desk pushups anytime anyone says “synergy,” “bandwidth,” “dialogue,” “action item,” etc.
  13. Cramping – If you get cramps during exercise, you need more Potassium.  If you experience cramping after exercise (like at night), you need Magnesium.
  14. Periodically check your form along your runs – from head to toe, assess the following.  Head up, looking forward?  Shoulders down and back, not hunching?  Back straight, supporting head and shoulders?  Arms aren’t swinging across  the body, from side to side? Hips are forward, like being pulled from a belt?  Leg cadence is 2 or 3 steps per second?  Ankles are loose?  Feet are landing lightly, not heel striking, not shuffling?  Fixing one of the above should help all the others.
  15. Listen to podcasts or audio books on your long runs.  The long, slow distance run is great for immersing yourself in a long podcasts or audio book.  I like to match my podcasts to my estimated  finish times.  I also recommend you check the audio quality and are comfortable with the voice overs for long periods.  Someone that sounds like Gilbert Gottfried or Julia Child may not be too pleasant after 13 miles.
  16. Do not stretch before running.  Warm up by easing into your run or doing some dynamic movements like leg swings or squats.  Recent studies show that static stretches do more harm than good and can set you up for injury if done before exercise.
  17. Shake out your arms, shoulders, and neck on downhills.  Going down a hill is a great time to just drop your hands to your side and relax your shoulders and neck.  It just takes a few seconds, but can really help to reset your form and your mindset.
  18. Don’t fight downhills.  Let gravity do its thing and you just maintain control.  You may have to increase your turnover, but that is much better than braking as you descend (i.e. heel strike).  Most downhills are either before or after uphills so use them to recover or prepare.