Helpful Hints for Runners…and Wannabe Runners

As I mentioned earlier, I have begun training for my first 5K in twelve years.  Along the way, I’ve collected some of my hints—some old, some new—and I now present you with the top five things that keep me running.

5.  Choose your music wisely. Music can be a great motivating factor or even a part of the psychological mind games you play with yourself to keep running.  In my case, I actually have a recording of the University of Tennessee Pregame show to start my running.  I start with that show because I used to be in the band, and pregame was always the most grueling part of practice.  Each time I hear those songs I remember how I would tell myself, “If I can make it through this, I can make it through anything.”  As I get better, I’ll actually shift those songs to the end of my playlist to keep me going at the end. Oh, and don’t forget to bring Sexyback—a little Timberlake goes a long way.

4.  Stretch before AND after you run. This is good advice for everyone, but I’ve found it to especially be true now that my college years are rapidly fading in the rearview mirror.  I’m not twenty-two anymore—far from it.  My muscles aren’t as elastic as they once were, and I absolutely must stretch before and after I run.  And don’t forget your ankles!  My ankles have a horrible tendency of locking up, especially in cold weather.  If you simply lift your leg and rotate each foot in circles, your ankles should do much better.  You can find some of my other favorite stretches here.

3.  When you need will power, ball your hands into fists. I just read about this phenomenon in the Parade magazine this past Sunday.  One study showed that the simple act of making a fist gives you extra strength and/or gives you will power.  Ever the diligent Healthy Writer, I put this hypothesis to the test and found it to be helpful in pushing myself a few seconds more while running on the treadmill.  I haven’t tried shaking my fist at chocolate yet—I’ll let you know how that one goes.

2.  Follow a plan that brings you gradually to where you need to be. I’m a bit of an impatient perfectionist.  When I decide I want to run a 5K, I want to be able to do it tomorrow.  When I decide to lose weight, I want it gone tomorrow.  And, of course, if I don’t run fast enough or lose weight fast enough, then I throw my hands up in disdain at my personal “failures.” Having a set plan that forces you to take things step by step helps moderate your expectations while simultaneously highlighting your progress.  You can find several different plans to follow if you want to train for a 5K.  I’m currently using the Zero to Hero Plan at Disney Driven Life, and I’m happy with the results thus far, i.e. week three.

1.  Posture is everything, so hold yourself high. This was my light bulb moment a few years ago.  I wish I could remember what magazine I was reading at the time so I could give credit where credit is due, but the author said that the human tendency is to slouch as we tire.  The slouching, in turn, keeps the maximum amount of oxygen from getting to our lungs which makes running even more difficult.  I now live by this advice, and I can’t remember the last time I got a stitch in my side. *frantically knocks on wood*

So, what are some other helpful hints for runners?  Do you throw a towel over the display to keep yourself from getting mad at how slowly time is passing?  Have a special food/drink for before and after you run?  I’m a latecomer to running, so I’d love to hear what you have to say.


9 responses to “Helpful Hints for Runners…and Wannabe Runners”

  1. Pam Asberry says:

    I’m not a runner, but I use the elliptical machine at the gym, and I think most of your suggestions will apply. It’s also important to eat properly before and after exercise; I had a free session with a trainer when I joined the gym, and he suggested carbs an hour before exercise and protein within 45 minutes after. I usually have an egg and a piece of toast before and a protein smoothie after. It really does help keep the energy level up! Also, I have given up music in favor of books on tape. I got bored with my playlist; also, the music at the gym is pretty loud, and competed with what I was trying to listen to. I don’t have that problem with the books on tape, and I’m killing two birds with one stone. Thanks for the post!

    • Sally says:


      You absolutely right about eating properly and about getting enough to drink as well. I try to have a protein shake after working out (cardio + weights for me).

      Good idea with the books on tape, too. Hubby listens to podcasts, but I prefer something with a beat to it. : )

  2. Pamela Mason says:

    Believe it or not, I used to run an official 10k every month, and I have the t’shirts to prove it! Matter of fact, one goal for this snow week was to make that quilt, but… other goals superseded that one.
    My ultimate, and yes I am showing off, was a half marathon. And no, that shirt won’t be cut up for the quilt.
    My drive came from competition against myself. “I did this faster yesterday…I can do this hill today…one more lap around the cul de sac and I can have that special body wash I’ve been saving.” I also visualized every step as a bite of food being metabolized, sweated off, burned up in my exercising. Bite by bite… that burger got used up, now for the fries.
    Mind Games.
    That, and imagining Daniel Craig at the finish line of the IronMan in Honolulu….

    • Sally says:

      I think mind games are a huge part of running. I’ve been known to put the towel over the display. The whole pregame thing is a mind game–sometimes I’ll play it two or three times to keep going.

      I have not imagined food metabolizing–usually because I’m gasping for breath. And perhaps I’ll trade Daniel Craig for Johnny Depp. Hmmm.

      Oh, and most importantly, congrats on 10Ks and a marathon. I have never gone beyond a 5K. I’m going to focus on that first and then consider one of the farther races. One day, I would like to run the Peachtree. : )

      • Pamela Mason says:

        We have run that as a family in past years, and want to do it again. My goal is to get back up to speed for it again, and to look good for those candid race photos.
        Word of warning: if you run BIG 5 & 10k’s, candid photogs are there to catch every runner, so don’t be behind the cute teenster, and be sure to wear something decent that COVERS! I’ve seen much too much unsolicited flesh at these things… and it ain’t pretty.
        Peachtree Registration online first weekend in March.

  3. One of my 2010 goals that I did not accomplish was to run a 5k. I even had a specific one picked out, but I ultimately decided not to do it because I still just hate running. I decided I needed to run a 5K regularly on the treadmill/on my own before I do a race. I also find it easier to motivate to exercise if I like what I’m doing.

    I did find and purchase a bunch of really kick-butt (aka incredibly supportive, you almost won’t move) sports bras. That made a huge difference to my exertion level in exercise. I’m a bit on the stacked side, so cardio, especially running, could be uncomfortable. I discovered that I had been holding myself a bit back before I purchased at lululemon a bunch of “ta ta tamers”. (Yes, whoever named that particular sports bra has a sense of humor.) You can also get really great sports bras from the online Title IX shop.

    The DC-area is full of overachievers, so I know a lot of folks who run marathons, half-marathons, triatholons, etc. One piece of advice that seems really good is to try to be “zen” when you run and just focus on the next step. DO NOT think about how much more you have to run (distance or time). If you do, you’ll probably start freaking out and will mind game yourself into stopping early.

    • Sally says:


      I think you have a good point about how running is not for everyone. I have some friends who will do just about anything but run because they say running is boring. I like to zone out while I run, so I’m the opposite.

      Thanks for reminding me I need a sports bra upgrade. Since I gained weight, my older ones SO don’t tame the ta-tas.

      As for ZEN, I think most successful runners tune out–that’s why so many throw that towel over the display or hit shuffle on a playlist to keep from knowing how far along they are.

  4. Anna Sugden says:

    I’m cheering you on in your 5k goal – that was me a few years ago and I know the journey you’re taking … and am proof that even a layabout slug can run 5k if they put their mind to it and train up for it! *g*

    I totally agree with you on the music – I found that I have certain tracks which help me keep my pace up when I’m flagging. I also found that podcasts or TV shows on my iPod are better for elliptical training or treadmill running, but a punchy, bouncy music selection is better for road-running.

    Absolutely on the training program that takes you through in bite-size chunks. Like you, I’m impatient, but it truly is the only way to achieve. I find it reduces the chances of you giving up too, because your achievements are smaller, but measurable and your progress is also measurable.

    The other thing for me was signing up for the race with my step-d’s. Having them on the same path and at the same level of fitness really helped keep me on track and motivate me when I might otherwise have given up. I know they used a running book, which works in the same way as your web program.

    The most important tip I can offer is to get good running shoes. That is crucial. My ankles and feet roll out when I run, so I have problems with my ankles seizing, despite stretches. Other people roll in. I went to a sports shop and they filmed me running on a treadmill to see how I ran and then filmed me running in different pairs of shoes to find the pair that cradled my feet properly and brought my ankles back to centre. I can’t tell you the difference it made. Don’t just settle for a name brand, take the time to find the correct shoes.

    • Sally says:

      Thanks, Anna!

      You make such a good point about shoes. I’m planning to blog on my experience getting proper shoes because I just got a coupon to go to a store like the one you described. They’re going to watch me running on a treadmill and then find the proper shoes. I can’t wait to see what they suggest.

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