Running hacks, anyone?
May 26, 2010 10:21 PM   Subscribe

Running hacks?

Do you have any general tips about running like improving endurance, pacing, injury prevention, increasing speed/distance? Are there things I can do before a run to make it better? Anything simple that a novice runner probably doesn't know yet.

A good example: breathing on every second step in order to get rid of a side stitch.
posted by joeyjoejoejr to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 90 users marked this as a favorite
Find an ideal running time, not just for your schedule, but for your body as well. Often I have more time in the mornings to run, but my body feels a lot better and I can last for longer when I run in the evenings. So I do my best to do my runs after work rather than before. It's pretty simple, but it's important. Find what works for your body.
posted by too bad you're not me at 10:30 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Spenco insoles. They've seriously saved my ankles from who knows how much stress.

Lean forward going down hills. That's always a fun feeling.

If you have a few running partners, to break up the monotony do ladders. Everyone jog in a line, person in the back has to sprint to the front. Rinse, repeat. Killer workout, but you'll feel stronger.
posted by jng at 11:03 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Check your form. Some people run with a poor/energy wasting form, often by getting too much height/too much energy used going up and down instead of forward. One trick is to pretend you are running under a low ceiling, and if you bounce too high off the ground you will hit your head.

Also, try to relax. Little mistakes such as tensing up and making tight fists or holding your arms in too tight to your body can bring your heart rate up quite a bit.
posted by Diplodocus at 11:34 PM on May 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

Try to run as silently as possible. This forces you to limit stomping (which will destroy your knees). Make sure you transfer the energy from the impact of hitting the ground into a lateral motion -- that is, you should land very briefly on the ball of your feet then focus on the muscles in your foot pushing you forward.
posted by spiderskull at 11:37 PM on May 26, 2010 [7 favorites]

Prevent shin splints by drawing the alphabet with your toe when you're sitting around.
posted by salvia at 11:37 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your aerobic capacity will likely exceed the capacity of your joints/ligaments/muscles etc. Accordingly, just because you can run it at a certain speed or distance, doesn't mean you should (Note: I am still trying to live this advice every day, and I have been running for about six years now...).

More generally: High cadence (lots of little steps), foot landing under centre of gravity, get proper shoes. If you search for this more broadly, both within and without ask mefi, you will get a metric shittonne of information.
posted by smoke at 12:01 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Start slower than the pace you want to have for most of the run, rather than starting out at that speed. It's easier to get your form and breathing under control this way. I usually find that if I start out this way I can maintain my top speed for a longer period of time than if I start out at that speed.

Spend fifteen minutes each week working on your core muscles. Curls, situps, back ups and pushups are all pretty good exercises for your core. Improving core strength helps you maintain your running form, run faster in different conditions, and prevents injury.

Cement is really tiring to run on and hard on your knees and feet. Asphalt is a little bit softer. Stick to grass and dirt paths whenever possible.
posted by millions of peaches at 12:01 AM on May 27, 2010

Don't overlook the value of sprints. Ladders are great if you have one or more partners to run with, but if you're running solo you can still do sprints. If you run with music, sprint the bridge or each chorus. I generally just jog, but my overall running endurance and strength increased a lot when I started doing sprints. If you run on an oval track, you can start out just sprinting the short sides, gradually move to sprinting the long sides, and then move to sprinting say one lap out of five. Challenging yourself to go fast can be fun and motivating.
posted by jrdixey at 12:08 AM on May 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

If you frequently get stitches, then you might be pushing yourself a little too hard. That said, a lot of people find that grunting will help relieve it. Seriously.

I can only echo what the above people say about speed. It is almost always better to run too slow than run too fast. I have been running for a couple of years and still prefer to run for a length of time rather than a distance. If you say you are going to run for 45 mins (as opposed to 5 miles), I find it much easier to find a good consistent pace.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 2:12 AM on May 27, 2010

Make sure that you have the right shoes for your feet/running style. I have super flat feet, and the proper shoes fixed a lot of the pain I was experiencing.
posted by hey you over in the corner at 4:16 AM on May 27, 2010

Best answer: Get good running shoes (get fitted, and replace them every few months) and comfortable running clothes that work for your body. E.g. if you're a woman and busty, a high-impact sports bra; if running shorts ride up on you, try compression shorts with a longer inseam. You're pushing your body already; no need to make things more uncomfortable with chafing or heavy clothes. The farther you run, the more this matters. Heavyweight Beefy-T shirts like you get for free at radio stations feel awful after a couple miles.

Dress for 20 degrees warmer than you would if you were walking around. You will warm up during your run.

Don't stretch "cold" - it can injure your muscles. If you want to stretch before a run, warm up first. You don't really need to stretch before a run, but you do need to stretch afterward.

If you do any running on a treadmill, run at a 1-2% incline; it's closer to running outdoors than no incline.

Sore muscles from a previous workout (aka DOMS) are okay to run through, and will usually feel better after a workout. Sharp pains require rest. Remember RICE for injuries: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

Drink lots of water throughout the day, not just in the couple hours before your run. If you're well hydrated and running under 45 minutes, you won't need to carry water with you.

Finally, sign up and train for a race! It's excellent motivation, and races are usually friendly rather than competitive - no one will judge you if you're slow, but they will cheer you on.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:34 AM on May 27, 2010 [5 favorites]

I think running barefoot is the ultimate hack. It might work for you, it might not, but it is certainly a hack.
posted by ChrisHartley at 4:40 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tape your nipples.
posted by OmieWise at 5:05 AM on May 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

Get something like a Nike+ or Garmin Forerunner to quantify your runs. I believe there is evidence that charting your progress leads to a firmer commitment and better fitness.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:36 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

To save some energy while running uphill, short strides with high knees.
posted by mcroft at 6:00 AM on May 27, 2010

Bodyglide. Every time.
posted by djb at 6:17 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Arms over your head for side stitches.
posted by callmejay at 6:39 AM on May 27, 2010

I find that just running more helps with pace, etc. As in, the more days in a week I can get a run in, the faster my runs become and the more endurance I have.

To that end, either get a running partner who will encourage you to run more often and who you will encourage back. Or, use a social site to help encourage you. I like (this is me, if anyone is looking for a virtual running buddy), but Facebook, Twitter, runner+, etc. should all do the same trick. I get encouraged (sometimes guilted) into running when I see that my friends are out more than me. Makes me want to get out more. It has made a huge difference in my willingness to get out and run.

Also, sign up for races.
posted by bDiddy at 6:42 AM on May 27, 2010

For blisters, regular band-aid + duct tape is just as good as anything you can buy.

On pain:
if it hurts during the run but not after, that's fine.
if it doesn't hurt too bad during the run but hurts a lot after, you are overtraining. Decrease your distance and/or intensity next time out.
if it hurts a lot during the run and hurts a lot after, you are injured. Take time off until you are healthy.
posted by Kwine at 6:55 AM on May 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Endurance: listen to music. I find that when I can immerse myself in a song or a lyric, I'm focused less on the "I can't go much further" mindset.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:56 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

A specific thing to watch in your form:

Keep your knees, feet, and quads facing forward as your run. Pointing your feet (and knees and quads) outward will torque your knee. I pointed one knee outward for a long time without noticing and had knee pain after 5+ mile runs that I could exactly explain. That cleared up almost completely after someone pointed out what I was doing, and I became mindful of where my legs and feet were pointing.
posted by ignignokt at 7:18 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding barefoot running. All the padding and support we put on our feet has only crippled them and made them weaker. Transition slowly though, or it'll hurt like hell to go straight to barefoot.

Also: running sucks the first few months. Don't worry. It'll get easier.
posted by pyrom at 8:07 AM on May 27, 2010

Best answer: Pacing hack: To really learn what a given pace feels like, leave your Garmin/pedometer/whatever at home. Just wear a watch instead, and either go to the track or use Map My Run or something similar to map out a loop exactly one mile long in a reasonably flat area. If you want to be running, for example, a five-mile tempo workout with one mile as warmup, one as cooldown, and three miles at 8 minutes per mile: Run around the loop once, at a ridiculously easy pace. Check your watch and/or heart rate to make sure you were going at a slow and easy pace (if 8:00 is your tempo pace, dial your warmup back to at least 10:00 or slower). Then, step up the pace for your tempo run. Every time you do another loop, check your watch. It's OK to be a few seconds fast or slow, but if you're more than 10 seconds off, you don't know what the pace really feels like yet. If you do this at a given pace for at least a few miles a week, you will quickly learn what that pace FEELS like as you run it, how hard it makes you breathe, what your foot cadence and stride feel like when your legs move at that speed, etc.

Of course, as you gain fitness (or lose it), your internal "pace map" will shift and you'll start running faster (or slower) than you think you're running. So I like to do a few Garmin-free weeks every few months, or whenever I feel like I've gotten stronger, or if I'm coming back from some time off or from an injury. It's a really big help to be able to tell how fast you're going without being tethered to a piece of electronic equipment, especially if you like to run races and tend to forget things on the way to the start line.

Food hack: Eat something small about two hours before running -- I like to have a little handful of dried fruit and nuts, or a banana with a bit of nut butter, but everyone's different. If you go out for a run and you're starving, your run won't go well. If you go out after eating a lot, your run will go even worse and you stand a good chance of either puking or pooping in a bush. After running, eat something small with carbs and protein -- a lot of people like chocolate milk, some people like protein shakes, whatever you want really. Just don't eat too many calories' worth of it, or you will gain weight. (In general, people tend to overestimate their caloric needs when they start running.)

Water hack: Drink enough of it. If you start running for extended durations (think 1 hour or more), drink something with some electrolytes in it instead. If you start running long distances, something like a Fuel Belt can be useful to carry your liquid around with you. I usually drink about 2 oz. of fluids every 10 minutes -- more if it's very hot or humid outside. You can figure out how much liquid you need by weighing yourself before and after a run to figure out how much fluid you sweated out. Don't drink too much at once though, or it will slosh around in your stomach and make you feel sick.

Clothing: Cotton is the shittiest thing to run in, because the sweat just stays in it and won't evaporate. Plus it will chafe you like a mofo. Bit by bit, upgrade your running wardrobe to technical fabrics that wick away sweat (you can actually get some pretty decent running shirts at Target these days, even!) Also, hats are great, especially on an early-morning run (keeping the rising sun out of your eyes) or on a hot, sunny day. Get a white or light-colored hat to keep your head a bit cooler. Running hats are really ideal (check out Headsweats), since they're made of lightweight technical fabric and have a nice wicking sweatband around the head, and a lot of longer-distance races give them out as freebies.
posted by kataclysm at 11:01 AM on May 27, 2010 [9 favorites]

seconding the food hack mentioned by kataclysm. it's a subtle balance, but eating 1. enough of 2. the right thing at 3. the right time can be a frustrating calculation. i've found that it's better to run a little hungry and avoid the inevitable stomach issues that occur with a full stomach. running first thing in the morning helps with this. also, protein is wildly underrated as a good source of calories before a run! don't just lean on carbohydrate cuz you'll burn through it and bonk.
posted by hollisimo at 11:28 AM on May 27, 2010

Don't be afraid to experiment! That's the key to good running... I mean, the answer is always: who knows?

Oh, and get a hat. Can't believe I ran for so long without one...
posted by ph00dz at 9:26 PM on May 27, 2010

Watch your shins, especially if you're just starting out. Generally speaking if your shins are hurting fairly constantly, there's something going on that's not right - wrong shoes, heavy heel strike or too-tight calves, and it's better to figure out what's going on first instead of gritting your teeth and running through pain. I stupidly thought I could run through mine and ended up going through six months of physio to stop the tendon from peeling away from the bone. YMMV, but if you're getting shin splints and suspect that it might be because of tight calves, grab a piece of wood, stick it against the wall on a 45-degree angle and place your foot on top. Lean forward towards the wall with your leg straight until you feel the stretch, and use the small muscles in your foot to pull your arch upwards. This'll stretch out your calf and have the added benefit of strengthening your arch - again, YMMV: my physiotherapist recommended this for weak arches.

Something I found helpful if you're going for speed and/or racing: instead of doing sprints on flat roads, I would sprint up trail stairs outside. Wood and dirt are softer than most concrete stairs, and after training yourself to go all out up 400 stairs the last little sprint at the end of a race isn't quite so bad. If you really want to increase your anaerobic conditioning, run up stairs with a weighted vest. I can't afford one (hah), so I use the wee backpack that carries my camelbak. Soaked sand in plastic bottles is an easy way to add weight and is easily adjustible - I found that metal weights dragged too much on my back. If you've got knee issues, though: I'd check with a doctor first.
posted by zennish at 12:49 AM on May 28, 2010

The book Chi Running was about 10x longer than it needed to be, but the synopsis is: "lean forward at the hips, not so much at the shoulders, keep a fast cadence/rhythm, and land on the balls of your feet; you'll hurt far, far less and use less energy to go the same distance."

Not sure how well it all works, but it's given me things to try.
posted by talldean at 8:02 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

This will probably sound obvious to more experienced runners, but I've found that simply wearing a watch in order to see how fast I'm running everyday routes can add a lot of intensity to workouts. When I began recording distances and times for my bread-and-butter loops (most of these were between 5 and 10 miles long), I felt compelled to run hard more consistently simply because it would bother me to look at my watch and see that I was lagging behind past times. Often, otherwise unremarkable workouts would turn into pseudo-tempo runs because I would get excited about besting old marks. That's not to say that you should be trying to set mini-P.R.s every time you run--that would surely incur injury. But it really helps to be conscious of how just fast you're going; and, conversely, being unaware of your pace can lead to more passive, less productive training.
posted by Maxa at 8:33 AM on September 11, 2010

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