Rules I Run By β€” 10,000 recreational kilometers and counting

Hi, I’m Ty, and I’m a runner. πŸ‘‹

In fact, I’ve ran consistently for several years. All told I’ve racked up around 10,000 Km.

So far I’ve avoided serious injury, and had a great time along the way. I owe it all to the good advice of my running buddies, and loads of books, posts, and videos on the subject.

To save you the trouble of searching for, testing out, and filtering all that information yourself, here’s a list I’ll call my amateur “running rules”.

TL;DR

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

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 β€œyoga” 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.

Footwear

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.

> 50Β°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.

Injury prevention

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 inc 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.

Mobility

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

Nutrition

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 .

Pacing

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 get 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.

Form

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. πŸ±β€πŸ‘€πŸ˜Š

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 β€” you will be.” β€”Micah True

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Ty Walls
Digital Construction Worker

Ty Walls is a software engineer in love with creating, learning, and teaching.

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