Monday, July 27, 2015

8 Lifehacks for the Joyful Runner

8 Lifehacks for the Joyful Runner:

Running is quite possibly the oldest sport known to man.  Whether our forefathers engaged in this noble pursuit recreationally or out of necessity, mankind has been running since the dawn of time…and maybe even before that. 

As a youth and as a young man I always dabbled in running as a means of staying in shape for whatever sport was coming up next.  But about three years ago, I began to run as an end unto itself.  In reflecting upon my running journey thus far, here are 8 tips I’ve discovered that will keep you improving in your running, and will also keep your running fresh and fun.

1.   Run Barefoot:  This discovery alone has transformed the way I run.  It took me from running as a chore to stay in shape, to putting away the miles effortlessly.  Running barefoot increases foot strength and supports your body’s natural running form.  As you run, you’ll notice your alignment and posture will get better, your back will straighten and your lungs will take in more oxygen.   While I don’t recommend logging all your weekly mileage running barefoot, running 5-10 minutes a week for the beginner is a good way to start.  For more info from the experts check out Barefoot Ted or Ken Bob.  These two are the modern day gurus of barefoot running. 

Barefoot Ted McDonald is considered by many to be one
of the top endurance athletes of all time. 
2.  Go For Group Runs or Have a Running Buddy:  Literally all, I’m talking all of the miles I logged the first 2 ½ years of my running journey I ran solo.  Only during the past 6 months have I begun going for group runs and partner runs.  For me, running with others is a great way to break up the monotony and log miles on days when I’m less motivated.   It’s also great for grinding out long runs and/or finding people who are training for similar events as me.  A running buddy, just like a workout buddy is also excellent to keep yourself accountable to your goals.  Plus, did I mention that running with people is fun?  

3.  Bring Water:  As a competitive athlete for most of my life, running was viewed as an act of pure conditioning to cultivate mental toughness.  I.E. water was an award for after the run.  When I began training for marathons and ultramarathons, I had to eventually learn to run with water and drink on the go.  I’ve found this makes the running experience more enjoyable.  You’ll recover faster and prevent all kinds of running related injuries with this simple practice.  Nowadays even if it’s just a short 30-minute run, I still bring a bottle of water with me.  There are tons of options for bringing water with you while you run.  My favorite is this handheld bottle made by Ultimate Direction. 

Handy 20
My favorite hydration tool:
The Handy 20 by
Ultimate Direction.
4.  Know How to Track Your Progress:  Having a goal in mind helps.  Races and events are excellent ways to track your progress and add fun to your training.  Know when and how to track your mileage and listen to your body to find a sweet spot.  While tracking weekly mileage can be useful, logging the amount of time you spend on your feet and how hard you run is also important.  For example, if you had a daily mileage goal of 5 miles per day, but it was 100 degrees outside when you ran, then 3.5 miles would be a good equivalent in terms of the stress you’ll put on your body.  Intensity is also important.  The impact you’ll put on your body running 4 miles at a 7 minute per mile pace may be the same as running 7 miles at an 11 minute pace.  Again, while tracking mileage is important, it is equally important to be aware of how hard you run, how hard you feel like you have run, and how long you were running. 

McKinney Roughs Nature Park:
One of my favorite ways to "Mix it Up"
5.  Mix it Up:  To prevent overuse injuries and to break up the monotony, mix up your routes and the types of terrain on which you run.  One of the reasons I love to travel so much is that I know I’ll get to experience running in a different environment.  If you run mostly on the road or in neighborhoods, try finding a park with some nearby trails for a new experience.  If you log most of your miles on the treadmill, step outside on the weekend and give it a go.  The possibilities are endless.  Running on roads is great for building up durability in your legs.  Running off road and on trails is great training for balance and running with your whole body. 

6.   Walking is Good:  In my past as a competitive athlete, walking was never an option.  When running became my main form of exercise, this mentality carried over.  You were literally more likely to find me dead on the side of the road in pursuit of my daily mileage than to see me walking.  I’ve learned from the error of my ways.  As ultramarathoning legend Dean Karnazes says, “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up.”  There’s no shame in walking if you have to.  You are still going to build up your endurance and spend time on your feet.  In fact, I walked during portions of my last marathon, something I’ve never done before, and I still finished with a personal best.  Walking will also help with recovery time if you’re doing a long run. 

7.  Crosstrain:  Along the same lines as the “Mix it Up” point, crosstraining is vital.  It will keep you strong, keep you fast, and most importantly it is great for injury prevention.  In my case, I mix in one day a week of crossfit and one day a week of weight training.  Other runners I talk to like to mix in a day of swimming, biking or hiking.  Have fun with it.  It’s a great way to “take a day off” by still keeping your fitness level up.  Crosstraining also aids in building up strength in areas of your body that may be neglected if all you do is run.  Balance is vital for the joyful runner, and crosstraining provides much needed balance.    

8.  Have Fun:  At the end of the day is this not what it’s all about?  I wouldn’t keep doing it if it wasn’t fun, and neither would the millions of others out there who are passionate about running.  So on the days your miles seem insurmountable, just remember to keep it light, keep it fun and to be thankful that you can keep on running. 

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