Rules I Run By — 10,000 recreational kilometers and counting
Hi, I’m Ty, and I’m a runner! 👋 Recently I ran past the invisible 10,000 kilometer mark.
The journey? Amazing! And educational. So far I’ve managed to avoid serious injury, and keep a smile on my face. I’m grateful for the advice of running buddies and loads of running books, blogs, and videos.
Here I’ve compiled a concentrated list of “running rules” that may help you get faster, stay injury free, and never lose that mid-run smile.
Boil all the rules down to their core, and you’ll get a few guiding principles:
- Running is a relatively high-impact activity
- Don’t run to get in shape — get in shape to run
- Form is important, but everyone is different. Run smooth, light, and efficient, and you’ll be OK.
- Often, less is more (speed, miles, gear, cushion)
- Run for yourself
Feet are an important part of the running arsenal. Here’s a few tips.
Don’t trim your toenails too short
They’ll dig into your toes and make you bleed. Why ruin a pair of $15 socks?
Cushy shoes may not help plantar fasciitis
Your foot starts hurting, so you get a maximalist shoe with more cushion, right? Not so fast — Your heel sinking into the cushion can actual increases the tension on the plantar fascia, exacerbating the problem. Try the following tips instead.
Strengthen your feet
The best way to strengthen the foot is through toe “yoga” and towel curls .
Use your toes when you run
You have toes for a reason. Use them when you walk and run, especially your big toe.
By the time you throw out a worn out pair of running shoes, you should see toe imprints in the insole.
Strengthen your butt
The pain is in your foot, but the demented mastermind might be your lazy butt. Keep reading.
Buy your shoes at a brick and mortar running boutique
You get to try them on, you benefit from the expertise of the sales staff, and you help keep their awesome business, in business.
Running shoes should be bigger than walking shoes
Your feet swell during the day and even more during a run. Typically you’ll need a half size up from your usual shoe size.
Be suspicious of “controlling” shoes
Unless a respected sports podiatrist personally tells you to get a motion control shoe or anything else that’s controlling or interfering with your natural gait, you probably don’t need it.
Your foot is already a mind-blowing display of unabated awesome. Be very suspicious of anything making it “better.”
Zero drop shoes are for you, if you grew up barefoot
Similar to above, with a big caveat.
Zero drop, minimalist shoes are the best, but!… only if you grew up walking barefoot 99% of the time. If you usually wore shoes, they probably had a heel, and it will take your calf and Achilles a long time to adapt to a more “barefoot” stride. You’ll need a 5mm drop, minimum.
Socks matter; Get comfy ones
Unless you like blisters and callouses, then get whatever. ;-)
(Comfy running socks(affiliate link) )
Pain and discomfort
If you are in pain during or after a run, you likely weren’t ready for that run, or the run was poorly executed (see Form ).
Remember, you don’t “run to get in shape”, you must get in shape to run.
Mid-run massages work
If you start to get IT band or plantar pain mid-run, take a quick break and use your knuckles to massage your butt, hips, and the top of your calves.
Relieve tightness with some AIS Stretching, perhaps while waiting waiting at a crosswalk.
Most likely the source of the tension is your brain/CNS. Gently kneading the tight spots tells your brain, “It’s OK buddy, we’ve got this. No one’s going to hurt you. Relaaax…”
Wear UV-blocking, polarized sunglasses, even when it’s cloudy
Protect your eyes from UV as well as stray projectiles, bugs, and low-hanging branches.
> 50°F? Wear shorts.
The ideal temperature for a run is 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. The faster you’re going, the lower it should be. Reach for the gloves before the long pants and jacket.
Running in the rain is awesome, but…
Men will need something to keep that wet shirt from chafing their nipples. Ouch.
Use anti-chafe balm on sensitive spots before you run longer than 2 hours.
Skin on skin? Lube it up. Cheeks, crotch, toes, armpits.
Foam rollers are nice, but lacrosse balls are better
Get in there.
Strengthen your Achilles tendon with calf raises
The best way to prevent and even treat most Achilles tendon injuries is via eccentric calf raises (dips?).
Banish “runners” knee while doing squat(s)
Get rid of minor patella pain by doing some bodyweight squats on a downward facing incline. (demo ) But don’t do it all the time.
Wake up “Sleeping Booty”
Pain in your feet and knees is often caused by weakness and instability further up the kinetic chain, typically the glutes. You’ve got Sleeping Booty Syndrome. Wake up those glutes with the kiss of strength training.
Do glute bridges, not back bridges
Many people do glute bridges without using their glutes, which doesn’t help at all. If your low back tightens, you’re doing it wrong.
At first you’ll probably only be able to lift yourself 1/2 inch off the floor while squeezing those cheeks like someone’s trying to steal your credit card. Try hugging one knee to your chest while you perform the glute bridge with the other leg.
Choose a running-friendly physician
Sports-oriented Physical Therapy (PT) docs that keep abreast of modern sports medicine are superb, and have more schooling than chiropractors.
Try to choose a primary care doctor who is also a runner. A DO is sometimes preferable to an MD.
Because running through a mountain creek is fun, but hearing creaks from your body is not. :)
Stretch every morning
Do some light dynamic and “flow”-style stretching as soon as you get out of bed, especially as you get older. Flexibility is very much in the use-it-or-lose-it category.
Get stronger to get more flexible
Lack of flexibility is often due to a lack of strength. Your CNS doesn’t trust the muscle group in its full range of motion.
If you sit all day, the cobra and pigeon stretches are helpful/essential
Sitting too much shortens your hip and abdominal muscles and contributes to “sleeping booty” syndrome.
Don’t stretch before a run — warm up
Stretch after. Too much stretching makes you slow, especially static stretching.
Leg swings before a run make you faster
🎶 Front to back and side to side, swing both legs to help that stride! :-D
You don’t need to carboload for anything less than a full marathon
And eating fat-heavy food like pizza isn’t carboloading. :-D
Vitamin D is often more important than calcium for building strong bones
You’re probably deficient in vitamin D, but it’s possible to take too much. Get tested .
Running intervals can make you faster, but don’t do them all the time
Give your body time (and sleep, and good nutrition) to recover.
Race pace is for races, not every run
If you’re seven years old, run all out every day. Otherwise get ready to be injured and exhausted by over-training syndrome.
Most runs should be at a conversational pace
If you can’t talk, you’re running too hard.
If your heart rate keeps increasing during a long, easy run, try drinking more water
You’re likely dehydrated, and it’s making your heart work harder.
Muscle cramps can be caused by a lack of potassium, salt, calcium, or magnesium.
Yep, electrolytes. (Bananas for potassium. Beans for magnesium. Dark leafy greens for calcium.)
Continuous exertion greater than 3 hours is extra hard on your body .
Sub-three-hour “elite” marathoners have a distinct advantage over the rest of us. Don’t take their training regimen as a prescription for your own.
Watch your form, even at the slower paces. A long, easy run should not result in pain.
Check your form when you run by a store window
Standing tall, driving from the hips and glutes? Or are you hunched over at the waist, head down, arms too far forward?
Watch how various elite runners run. Try to imitate their form
Film yourself, adjust. But remember that everyone is different. If you run like a weirdo but stay consistently pain-free, then “weirdo” is the way to go!
Run like a ninja
If people can hear your footfalls you’re wasting energy and punishing your body.
But don’t sneak up on people
It’s just not a good idea… Be a considerate ninja. 🐱👤😊
Your head is heavy, make sure it’s not leaning forward or backward
Imagine you’re a marionette with a wire pulling you put by the top of your head.
Push the baby stroller
That IT band pain is likely because you aren’t engaging your butt when running. Running while pushing a baby stroller or shopping cart forces you to engage your glutes and trains your CNS.
Don’t forget to swing your arms
Hands should move in an arc, “hips to nips”. People behind you should fear an elbow to the face.
Don’t land on your heel
Possibly, don’t land on the ball of your foot either. The most efficient foot-strike is generally mid-foot.
Running barefoot can guide you to a stride that doesn’t hurt your body.
Don’t clench your fists
Pretend you’re running with a potato chip between your thumb and forefinger.
Don’t clench your jaw
Pretty much don’t clench anything. Relaxed and fast, they almost rhyme. ;-)
Your chest shouldn’t move when you’re breathing
Your belly should. Learn to breathe from your diaphragm by laying on your back.
Mind your mind
Run your own race
Run your own everything. Learn from others, but don’t compare yourself to them, or even to your younger self — that was someone else too. Be the best you that you are, today.
Final tip: Enjoy running
If you’re not having fun, why bother? Rumination on the past and present is nice and can generate unexpected insights and solutions, but don’t forget the moment — the squirrel on your path, the bird tracing the sunset, the feeling of your breath across your lips…
“First, focus on getting easy, because if that’s all you get, that ain’t so bad. Once you can run easy, focus on light. Once you get light, focus on smooth. By the time you’re easy, light, and smooth, you won’t have to worry about getting fast — you will be.” —Micah True