We can learn so much from each other if we are willing to share tips – something that runners don’t tend to have a problem with! So here I’ll drip feed things which have made a difference to aspects of training, racing or leading a healthy life.
Technique: conquering hill running
Unless you actively avoid hills you’re going to find you need to run up (and down) them sometimes. I actively seek them out as I love the endorphin rush from hill sprints, and know that they really benefit my running. But that’s not the tip here… the tip is a cue for how to run hills well. I think I read it in Scott Jurek’s book Eat & Run and it goes like this… when you approach a hill think about what you would do on a bike, which is to shift down a gear (in effort) and maintain your cadence. Stay light on your feet and this should allow you to avoid a big spike in your heart rate and the burn in your legs. (If it’s not obvious then you should expect to slow your pace here – the focus is more on maintaining effort and rhythm on a hill not maintain pace and see your HR ramp up, unless that is what you are training for).
Kit: multifunctional neckwear
Those who run with me will rarely see me out without a “Buff” around my wrist (other brands are available!). I LOVE these versatile bits of clothing. 90% of the time I use them as sweatbands, wrapped around my wrist. But they are also helpful to keep your head warm when it’s cold, and for dousing in water to cool your head down when it’s hot. (If you have young children it’s also helpful to mop up snotty noses and spills)
Kit: Oofos recovery flip flops
At a time when I’m recovering from an Achilles injury it’s the perfect time to give a shout out to Oofos. Their claim? ‘OOFOS shoes are engineered to help you recover faster after a run, workout, or hike.’ While I have enjoyed wearing them for the past two years I have never appreciated them more than now. When your body’s own shock absorbers play up you need something to fill their place and my Oofos flip flops do that brilliantly.
At around £50 per pair, these are perhaps a nice-to-have item to wear after long runs. They’re worth every penny, in my view, when injured, and they seem durable enough to stand the test of time.
Kit: a waterproof / moisture-wicking cap
This is a simple piece of kit, often costing less than £10, but can massively improve your enjoyment of a run in the rain. If you’re bald, rain just pours down your face when you’re out running, which can make it hard to see, and depending on the direction of the wind, everyone would be blighted by it hitting you square in the face. Putting a cap on therefore gives you a physical lift and also, for me, a psychological one as you feel it’s part of a ritual for taking on the elements. Clearly, it’s also helpful when running in hot weather (especially if you’re not a fan of running in sunglasses), particularly if there is an opportunity to dunk it in cold water and plant it on your head!
This is a game-changer. Overcoming the elements doesn’t get any easier or cheaper.
Take electrolyte tablets
Wind back 10 years and I never quite appreciate the important of sodium loss. During a normal day in the office I’d find myself drinking 3-4 litres of water to try to cure an insatiable thirst. When I went out for long runs I would regularly suffer from cramp. I tried using Powerade or Lucozade Sport drinks to help fuel my long runs but found them too sweet and not effective in replacing lost salt. In 2013 while preparing to race in the Atlantic Coast Challenge I decided to have a sweat test to see how much sodium I lost in my sweat. The results estimated that I would lose around 1,500mg sodium per hour of intense exercise with a bottle of Lucozade Sport, for instance, only replacing 250mg. I have taken sodium tablets pretty much every day since. The mild ones (250mg) for just day-to-day living, and the strong ones (1,500mg) for heavy exercise. (PS – the tablets are also great for tackling a hangover!)
This is a game-changer. It’s improved my day-to-day life as much as my running. The fact that they are zero calorie also means that I can separate my fuelling plan from my hydration plan for long race, rather than trying to find, say, a drink to do both. I have only ever used Precision Hydration and expect to still be using them in 30 years time. Take their free online sweat test if you don’t want to pay for the physical test.
I became interested in yoga at university during a short stint experimenting with martial arts. In the first few years classes helped to give me enough of a repertoire to practice on my own and now it’s just something I will do on a recovery day or do some static holds while watching TV. I’m really impressed with Sara Beth Yoga who has lots of short videos on YouTube with new flows and poses I’ve just not seen elsewhere
This is a game-changer. Being flexible and prioritising regular stretching undoubtedly helps to maintain good form when running and reduces injury. Remember dynamic exercises before running and isometric exercises afterwards.
Join a running club
I joined my first (and only) club in six years ago at the grand old age of 33. I wish I’d done it sooner. Being a member of a club provides you with a wealth of tips, race inspirations and friendly rivalry, as well as some great friends in your local area. UK residents can search here for official clubs but there are lots of other running groups out there.
This is a game-changer. With several marathons under my belt before I joined, at just under the 4-hour mark, I managed to knock about 50 minutes in my first marathon as a member