Wednesday, September 11, 2013

50 Running Tips

I get a lot of requests from companies wanting to pay me to post one of their articles on my blog--things like, "How to lose weight fast!" or "20 Weight Loss Tips", etc. I don't accept those kinds of posts here, because my blog is a personal account of my experience with weight loss and running, not a "how to" type of website. I believe that losing weight is very individual to each person--what worked for me may not work for you, and vice versa. That's why I don't have posts full of "tips and tricks" to share.

As I was running a couple of days ago, I was thinking of all the things I've learned as a runner--not just from reading about it, but from my experience. And I had the idea to put together a post about tips for running, just little tidbits I've learned here and there. Feel free to add your own running tips in the comments!

  • Get fitted for running shoes at a running store. There are so many injuries that can be prevented simply by wearing the right shoes! A knowledgeable staff person can watch your running form, and see if you have any issues with your feet, and recommend the best shoes for you. They may not be pretty (mine aren't!) but they will keep you comfortable.
  • Along the same lines, keep track of how many miles are on your running shoes. It's important to get new ones every 350-400 miles or so. I keep track on (you can select a pair of shoes for each run, and it totals your miles on each pair of shoes that you use).
  • If you are overweight, or you have loose skin, compression-fit clothing is very helpful in holding everything in to keep you comfortable. The bouncing of skin/fat hurts, and the compression fit hold it all tight. If you're self-conscious while wearing tight spandex, you can put a loose layer over them.
  • Wear moisture-wicking fabrics. I started out wearing cotton shirts and bottoms, and they would get drenched in sweat, feeling really heavy by the time I was done.
  • Some clothing can cause chafing (the neckline of my sports bras is notorious for it), and I've found that my favorite anti-chafing product is Aquaphor. I've tried Body Glide and others, but they didn't work well for me.
  • Wearing good socks is as important as wearing good shoes. The difference was like night and day when I started wearing wicking socks that I bought from the running store. I realized that the blisters I'd gotten were from cotton socks, and once I switched, I didn't have any more blisters.

  • Don't use rain as an excuse to skip an outdoor run. Running in the rain is actually pretty fun! You will feel like a kid again. Just make sure you wear lightweight fabrics, otherwise they will weigh you down as they get wet.
  • When running in the rain, a hat or visor works really well for keeping the rain out of your eyes. 
  • If you have a long run in the rain, have a couple of changes of socks (and shoes, if you have them) ready to swap out mid-run. I did a 20-miler in the rain before, and I was SO glad I had a dry pair of socks in the car to change into at around mile 14.
  • Running in heat and humidity can make your pace much slower, and this is normal. Your cardiovascular system is still working just as hard. So don't get discouraged by the slower pace (I had a hard time accepting this!). 
  • If you live in a place where you get a lot of snow and/or ice, like we do in Michigan, you can buy spikes for your shoes. I have IceSpikes, which I screwed into an older pair of running shoes. I can run on ice without slipping, which is pretty cool!
  • Out-and-back routes (where you run for a distance, then turn around and follow your steps all the way back) can be helpful if you have a hard time finishing a run. Passing by your house or car makes it really easy to quit! But if you run out for a distance, then you have no choice to to return.
  • Loop routes can be very useful if you're doing a long run and don't want to carry water or fuel with you. For example, you can break your 12-miler up into four 3-mile loops around your neighborhood, passing by your house each time. You can stop, get a drink, go to bathroom if needed, etc.
  • I like using the Garmin Connect website or to map out new routes. It's very accurate as far as measuring distances, and it helps to plan out runs in unfamiliar areas. You can also look at routes that other people have mapped out in your area.
  • I find that running alongside busy roads (maybe the sidewalk or bike path next to a busy road) somehow makes me faster ;)  So if I have speed work or a tempo run that I just don't want to do, I might deliberately choose a route that is busy. Knowing that people are looking at me makes me push a little harder!
  • On a long run, plan your route so that you stop by a friend's house (or two). It'll give you something to look forward to! Just make sure you're stopping for a quick hello and some water, and not margaritas ;)
  • Pepper spray is pretty cheap and easy to carry with you. This can help protect you from an attacker, as well as from dogs or other animals.
  • Wear bright colors and reflective gear when running on a busy road, so that drivers can see easily spot you.
  • Tell someone (your spouse, parent, friend, etc) your exact route and what time you should return. I always tell Jerry my routes, just in case something should happen.
  • Always run against traffic when running on the road. Cyclists should go with traffic, pedestrians should go against traffic.
  • Be very aware of your surroundings. I don't run with earphones, so I can hear everything going on. I know a lot of people can't stand the thought of giving up their music, so make sure the volume is low enough that you can hear a person, car, dog, etc. coming up behind you.
  • Carry a cell phone with you, if you can. This is helpful even if you're just having a bad run, and need someone to pick you up.
  • Don't make your running maps public. It's very easy for someone to see where you always start and stop your runs (your house), and it's basically giving free access to a map to your house.
  • When crossing the road or an intersection make sure you look drivers in the eye before going in front of their car. A lot of drivers don't pay any attention to watching out for pedestrians, and I've nearly been hit quite a few times. It's safer to assume they don't see you until you actually make eye contact.
  For beginners
  • Pick a schedule and stick to it! I made a promise to myself that I would run three times per week, no matter what. That was in early 2010, and I've kept that promise ever since. The only exception was after my surgeries, when I had to take some time off.
  • Don't try to do much, too fast. If you start out by running six days a week, for an hour each time, you're probably going to get injured or burnt out. Start small! By having and reaching small goals, you build up the discipline you need to stick with it for the long haul. Beginner motivation will only get you so far; determination and discipline will get you to your goals!
  • If a run feels too hard, SLOW DOWN. I couldn't believe how much farther I could run when I drastically slowed my pace. You can work on speeding up later, but when you're just starting out, it's important to build that distance first. 
  • Sign up for a race so that you have a goal to work toward. It's easy to start skipping runs if you're not working toward anything.
  • Don't compare yourself to others. What you think is slow may seem really fast to someone else, and vice versa. Just try to do YOUR best, and improve YOUR running.
For moms with small children
  • If you have just one or two kids, you can use a jogging stroller to take them with you outside.
  • My treadmill has been the best investment I've ever made. When my kids are home with me, and I can't get outside for a run, I can always do it on the treadmill.
  • Trade off with friends--you babysit her kids while she goes out (for a run, grocery shopping, whatever), and then she'll watch your kids while you run.
  • Plan your run around your partner's work schedule. Jerry works a swing shift, so there were some days I'd run at 6:30 AM, and other days I'd run at 8:00 PM. It just depended on his work schedule.
  • Take your kids to the high school track. While you run the track, the kids can run around and play on the football field.
  • You can let the kids ride their bikes on a bike path at the park while you run alongside them.
 Treadmill running
  • Set up in front of a computer or TV, so you can watch interesting shows to pass the time. My personal favorites, that made the miles fly by: Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, 24, Orange is the New Black, The Shield, Prison Break (and I'm sure there are lots more, I just can't think of them at the moment).
  • Set the incline at 1-2%, so that it feels more like running outside. It won't feel like you're running uphill, but your legs will feel a little heavier as you run with that small incline.
  • Cover the display with a towel, so that you're not staring at the numbers slowly tick away. Only allow yourself to peek at each commercial break, or after every three songs, or something like that.
  • Do intervals. By changing the pace and/or incline every so often (from once a minute to once a mile), you will focus less on the run as a whole, and just focus on each small portion. The time will pass faster when you look at it that way!
  • Using the treadmill is helpful for pace workouts, where you have to run at a certain pace for a specified time. It's easy to just set the pace and forget it while you get lost in a TV show. It's hard to be that consistent when you run outside.
  • If you live in a very flat area like I do, you can use the incline on your treadmill to get in hill workouts.  A typical grade for a hill workout would be about 5%.
  • Set a strong floor fan in front of the treadmill to blow on you while you run. It gets really hot when running without any sort of breeze, and the fan helps a lot.
  • I do almost all of my runs alone, so it's definitely a treat to get to run with someone! The best runs to run with a partner are long runs; your pace should be a slow, conversational pace, so it's easy to chat while you're running!
  • I mentioned that I don't use earphones when I run, so I do have to get a little creative in passing the time in my head. Usually, I am thinking about what I'm going to write about on my blog that day. 
  • Fartlek runs can help pass the time well. Basically, you pick a point ahead of you (a mailbox or a tree, or something like that) and run faster than usual until you hit that point, then you slow down again. Pick another spot, and do it again. That way, you're not thinking about the entire run you're doing, but just point-to-point.
  • Sometimes I try to find the most unusual thing I can while out for a run. I've seen some pretty strange things on the side of the road! The most common out-of-place thing I see? Men's underwear. I see at least one or two pair of men's underwear on the side of the road each week! 
  • I don't intentionally do this, but I find myself playing the "what if" game a lot while I'm running. I might see a shirt in the ditch, and think, "What if that were a body?" And then I run through the whole scenario in my head about what I would do if I actually came across a body in the ditch while running. Or if I hear footsteps behind me, I think, "What would I do if someone were to come up and try to attack me right now?" Morbid, maybe, but it's nice to work out a plan in my head! ;)
  • Sometimes an unplanned/unmapped route is perfect for keeping it interesting! Just head out without any destination in mind, turn whenever you feel like turning, and enjoy the new scenery.
  • This is probably ridiculous, but sometimes I think about what I'm going to eat later, after burning so many calories!
  • Vary your workout, so it doesn't become routine. Include easy runs, tempo runs, intervals, long runs, etc. (Just make sure you're not doing a hard run two days in a row, to avoid injury).
And that's all she wrote! I hope that some of these tips are useful. And I'd love to hear tips from all of you as well.


  1. Awesome list. Thanks for posting it. I've started a consistent walking plan for the next 4 weeks and then I'm going to start off running......slowly, and go from there. Your blog and also just inspire me to give it a go. Over 55 and overweight but I'm going to give it a shot!!

  2. Have you just tried using the moderation setting where you can check comments before posting them?

    1. Yes, but it would still require weeding out 50+ spam comments a day, unfortunately. I know the word verification is annoying, but it saves my sanity!

  3. How about...Instead of thinking about how much you don't want to run and would rather stay home just go out and do it...all the time that you spent trying to talk yourself out of it will just make you feel guilty and the run could have been done already! You'll never regret working out, but will regret putting it off.

  4. Where do you recommend shopping for compression clothes in 2-3x?

    1. Believe it or not, Wal-Mart has a really big selection of workout clothes for plus size women. That's what I wore until I discovered Under Armour (my favorite brand).

  5. Love the tips, thanks! Do you have a recommendation on a GPS device?

    1. Garmin! There are a lot of different models of Garmin Forerunners, so you can choose one depending on what features you're looking for. I have the 910xt, and I love it, but it's very pricey. A lot of my friends have the 210 and like it a lot. In my opinion, Garmin is the best brand to go with, regardless of the model (I'm not affiliated with Garmin in any way, just FYI).

  6. I have an older treadmill where I can raise and lower the incline, but it doesn't tell me what percentage it is. Is there a trick for finding out - measuring from the floor or something??

    1. Hmmm, that's a very good question! I wish I knew how to answer that, but I honestly don't know. There has to be a way to figure it out--have you tried googling the answer? I imagine it would be as simple as taking a measurement, though.

  7. @Dawn, has some good plus sized options, especially sports bras which are hard to find. Also check for plus sized pants at a good price. They don't carry the plus size in store but they have them online and you can return for free in store so you don't have to pay for shipping stuff back.


  8. Thank you ~ these tips are so helpful and motivational.

  9. Awesome tips! I just started running over the last couple of weeks and this is really helpful! Thanks Katie!

  10. Haha the part about the dead body or if someone attacked you... totally the s**t I think about when I am running. When I am tired I often think about what it would feel like if I flung myself in front of that oncoming car. Would I die? If not, how long in the hospital are we talking? Would I remember flinging myself in front of the car or would those last 15 seconds be blurred? So on and so forth.

  11. Your "what if" game is what I do all the time: Driving, running, shopping... It's actually a brain exercise that I read about a while ago that helps you think outside the box and helps you become a more observant person. So I'll see a shoe or something on the side of the road and think, "How did that get there?" and then do the same thing that you do. I'm glad I'm not the only one writing CSI episodes in my head while I run...

  12. What great tips. I'm so impressed with you and your ability to run without earphones, even super long runs. Also, after recently getting injured, I'm amazed that you run as your only form of cardio but stay injury free. I think that is wonderful too. I'm happy to say that I was able to run last Sat pain free after 2 months of doing other cardio and healing. But I'm going to stick to once/week to stay pain free for now.

  13. Ha, I ALWAYS play a what if game, espeically the "what if I saw a dead body". very wierd..Great tips. I think I need to invest in some better socks and keep track of my miles on my shoes!

    1. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one with a morbid mind! Hahaha, it's weird where our mind wanders to when we're running ;)

  14. Don't neglect strength training! Running does not build muscles. You can be so much stronger on your runs by just adding a few squats, core exercises and pushups!

  15. I don't run, but I really enjoyed your list! So many great and practical tips from a real person who really runs A LOT!! My favorite tip was the one about thinking about what you're going to get to eat at the end of your run. Not ridiculous at all!! I have thought many times how appropriate the title of your blog is for you. I did identify with a couple if your tips. I don't wear headphones when I walk either--I want to be able to hear those cars. AND... I often write my next blog in my head as I walk. It is really good thinking time.

  16. Thank you for this list - it is extremely helpful. I started running last year and I try to read as much as I can about running. I have never stuck to an exercise routine longer than a few weeks, so for me to keep doing it a year later is exciting.
    Your blogs are great and I am so happy I found you - you are a true inspiration!

  17. Such a great post!! I am going to share it, hope that is OK. One thing I bought for music is an ear bud that just the 1 ear bud so I have my ear that is next to traffic free to hear. I don't use it all the time just when I will be on busy roads.

  18. Very thorough list, and great tips! When I get bored during a run I often start daydreaming about what I'm going to eat after! Ha!

    A motivation tip that I use with myself is if I really, REALLY don't feel like going for my run, I promise myself that I'll go out there for ten minutes - or even five. And if I am done after that, I will allow myself to stop. 99 times out of 100 I do my whole entire run. It's that first step out the door that is often the hardest!

  19. This was a great post! Thanks SO much Katie! If I don't run/walk outside my treadmill is the next go to as well...but I don't use the towel and I find myself watching the numbers too much and not focusing on the run itself. I am definitely going to use some of these rock! :)

  20. Thank you for this post! It came at a great moment for me. I weighed myself this morning and was disappointed, I need to start running again. Back in the spring I was running 5Ks like it was my job, but summer came around and I stopped. I haven't ran since June, and it's time to change that! Thanks for the great tips! Love your blog, I read it every day!

  21. Those are all great tips! I'm still a beginner. I get so nervous running different routes or in the mornings now that it's dark when I get up. How do you get past the nerves of new stuff like that?

    1. I'm still nervous to run in the dark (which is weird, because I used to run in the dark all the time a couple of years ago!). But I love to run new routes! Sometimes it helps if you drive the route first, just to see where you'll be running :)

  22. I love this! I am not a great runner, but I guess because I am still fat and can do it, people always want to know how. So, I agree with all the stuff you wrote and feel basically the same way. I am one that hates to run without my music, but I do keep my headphones at a low level so I can hear cars and stuff. One thing...where do you buy the pepper spray? I've thought of getting some, but I am not sure where to find it. I also like to look for interesting things when I run, and I've come across a lot of them, too. I even stepped on a snake not too long ago. Anyway, loved this post!

    1. I got mine at my local sporting goods store.

    2. I bought mine at Meijer, which is a local grocery/everything else store (kind of like a Super Wal-Mart). It was with the sporting goods, so I imagine other places that sell sporting goods would have it.

  23. What a great post! I have been thinking about taking up jogging because I just think that I could jump right in as a runner - but who knows. Good advice to a beginner.

  24. Ahhhh! Just what I needed to read today. I'm not a fan of running. LIKE AT ALL. I guess it's because I feel like my boobs jump up and slap me in the face lol. But really. This makes me WANT to run...and not many things do that for me, haha!

    1. I wear an enell bra, and they are great if you are larger chested and have a problem with the boobies jumping all around. :) I ordered mine on amazon. Best bra ever!

  25. I admit I use rain as an excuse for not running outside. After reading this I no longer will (unless its thunder and lightening out). And wouldn't you know its raining today some. Better go home and find ball cap to wear and put in my contacts! :)

    Do you run past dark? If so do you use a headlamp? I thought about investing in one of them because I really am dreading running on the treadmill all winter.

  26. I had no idea that RunningAhead website existed! Thank you for all the tips!

  27. I do the "What would I do if I won the Lottery?" thought process! It changes EVERY time I go out to exercise which is really funny to me. You would think that doing that a couple of times would get old. Nope. Every time I come up with new ways to spend my winnings.
    Or I think about what it would be like if I were a superhero.
    And trust me, you aren't the only person that has thought about "What if that was a dead body?" I do that a lot too!!

  28. I always think about food when I'm working out. Exercise makes me hungry!

  29. I live in Canada and find Wal-mart here does not carry much in athletic wear in larger sizes so I have trouble finding clothes but did order a pair of Reebok compression pants and they are great!
    My problem is finding quality sports bras because I am a E Cup and they never fit properly.