In light of the approaching summer running/racing season, I thought it would be helpful (and kind of fun) if I shared with you a few tricks that I have picked up over my past three years of running that will hopefully be of some use to you in your current and future running endeavors.
So please enjoy and happy running!
1. Picking Apples
I don't know about you, but when I run I build up a lot of tension in my shoulders. What I've learned over the years is that if you have this same problem, all you need to do is – while you're running, mind you – lift both of your arms up in the air and pretend like you are picking apples off an apple tree for about ten seconds. Then – again, while you are still running – drop both arms below your waste as if they suddenly went numb and shake out all the built-up tension.
I can't tell you why this works, all I know is that it has done wonders for me.
2. Tie your key to your shoes
This one is really simple but it took me about a year before I learned about it while getting ready for a race and I saw someone else doing it.
Pretty self-explanatory! If you are in a pinch and you don't have anywhere to hide your car or house key, simply just loop your shoelace through the top and tie your shoes. For those of you who did not know about this, you are welcome! Now just pass this on to the next person.
3. Reeling people in
This is a fun little trick I learned one day while watching a running documentary. It's really easy: while you are running, pick out another runner that is ahead of you and imagine throwing a lasso around them. After you have the lasso securely fastened, just pretend like you are "reeling" that person toward you so that you can speed ahead of them! I know it sounds kind of silly but for me it's fun and it works!
4. Start slow and finish strong
With everything that goes on during race day, it is really easy to get over excited and start your race off going faster than you had originally trained for. I made this mistake once and I paid the price by running out of energy toward the end.
The simplest way I have found to avoid this common mistake is to know your pace and the finish time you are aiming for. Then at the start of the race just find whatever pace group you belong to and stick close to them. That way you will know for sure that you are not going to fast at the start of the race and that you will more than likely have enough energy to finish strong.
5. Drink at every aid station
Now that it is getting warmer outside, it is especially important to make sure that you stay hydrated during your race. So do yourself a favor and take advantage of the fluids they provide at each aid station.
6. Your arms help move your feet
This may differ slightly from person to person but I believe the fundamentals are pretty much the same for everybody: in order to run it really helps if you move your arms in a way that is comfortable for you. For me, I hold my arms close to my hips and at a 90-degree angle when I run. For you it might feel more natural to keep your arms higher up, closer to your chest.
There has been a lot of great studies done on this subject and if you would like to learn more I would highly recommend you checking out this link from RunnersWorld.com regarding "The Perfect Running Form".
7. Play music in your head
You might not know this but for safety reasons many races these days will not let you to listen to music. For a lot of people this is a challenge. For me it is kind of a double edge sword because I enjoy hearing the crowd cheer me on yet I realize there are going to be those moments during each race where it can get kind of boring. This is why I think it is important for you to know how to listen to music in your head. Maybe this will help you, maybe not. I just wanted to throw that out there in case you didn't know.
8. When you start to feel weak, focus on your cadence
I've touched on this before but I actually just learned today that whenever you start to feel tired during a run it can really help if you focus on your steps per minute (cadence) rather than on the pain or fatigue you might be feeling. Ideally what you want to shoot for is a count of 90 strikes on your right foot every minute of your run (which equals out to a cadence of 180 steps per minute). I tried it out today and it actually helped me out a great deal, maybe it will help you too?
9. Do some research on how to avoid hitting the wall
I was reminded the other day that in spite of my burning desire to help people, I need to make it much clearer that I am not qualified (yet) to dole out specific nutrition advice since I am not a certified nutritionist (yet). That being said, I really want to encourage everyone to do their own research to figure out their own nutritional strategy to avoid hitting "the wall".
I can tell you that personally, eating a lot of carbohydrates the days leading up the race have helped me out a lot. But just because that worked for me does not necessarily mean it will work for you. So don't be afraid to dig until you find a plan that works best for you.
10. Have fun!
I know that nerves and self-doubt have a tendency to creep in the days and hours leading up to the big race; that's only natural. But a great way I have found to alleviate all that pressure and anxiety is to just remind myself to have fun out there! What's the point of doing it if you can't enjoy it right?
Please remember to take my advice with a grain of salt. Yes I am an avid runner, but at the end of the day I am really just a normal guy on my own journey. All I want to do is share what I've learned so that it can hopefully help you out on your journey.
Take care and thank you for spending your time reading my article!