5 Running Tips Before You Start Up Again

Well, after being gone for about 3 months, I’ve been back in the running game for nearly two full weeks now and, I can honestly say, I had forgotten a few of my own personal running tips.  So, in honor of getting back to hitting the pavement, I thought I’d share what I’ve (re)learned these past couple of weeks.

 

1. Running Blindly Is Not A Good Idea

If you find yourself running, as I typically do, before the crack of dawn (or after dusk), there are a few tips you need to be aware of;

Know Your Route

This may seem a bit trivial but it is a big deal.

Do not find yourself running an unfamiliar route for the first time in the cover of darkness – this never ends well.  As a matter of fact, this is a very bad idea for a number of reasons but mainly because your chances of injury increase significantly.

The Road’s Not Always Smooth

I learned this lesson the hard way when, on two separate occasions, the flat road I was running on decided to, all of the sudden, raise up a good 8 or so inches.  Well, being that I was running in the cover of darkness, it just so happens that the cover of darkness camouflaged the invisible asphalt hill and when my foot hit the mound, my face hit the road.  On another occasion, the street decided to cave in a good 6 inches and when my foot found that little nugget of joy, my shoulder met the asphalt, my face felt pain, and I my ego felt…ashamed.

There’s Black Ice And Then There’s Invisible Ice

So, after eating and digesting pavement a few times, I made sure to stick to my routes…which now included the few routes mentioned above…because once you bite the dust, muscle memory reminds you not to do it again.

But my friends, just because I was now running familiar routes, that did not mean I was in the clear.  You see, no matter if you’ve run your route a thousand times blind folded there are still some things you can’t plan for - Black Ice

These past few weeks have been extremely cold which means I have been running in practically sub freezing temperature at least 4 days a week.  Well, about a week into getting “back in the game” it was almost time to call it quits.  Why?  Well, on a cold and windy morning I found myself feeling good about my pace when, all of the sudden, “Down goes Frazier!”  I was running perfectly one second and the next….sliding down a hill on my right elbow and thigh was I.

I had hit a patch of “Invisible Ice.”

“You mean black ice?”

“No, I mean invisible ice because at 5 AM everything is ‘black’.”

So, as I found myself sliding down a hill into darkness I thought, “Note to self: lookout for invisible ice from now on…or run a route that isn’t conducive to accumulating invisible ice.”

 

Just Because You See Them Doesn’t Mean They See

Finally, when it comes to routes, lets talk about cars ba-by.  Pretty straight forward here – DON’T ASSUME THEY SEE YOU!

Again, just because you think a car sees you doesn’t mean they do.  I am sure a number of us almost get hit weekly, but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t freak us out every time some a-hole almost sideswipes us.  So my friends, let’s side with caution and pause before crossing because if the car doesn’t choose to stop I’m pretty sure we’ll lose that game of chicken.

 

2. The Right Kicks

The Right Kicks

I couldn’t stress this tip more – make sure you get the right shoes and DO NOT break in new shoes with an initial long run.

It is very important to get the right kicks.  And it is equally as important to note that the right shoes for me are not necessarily the right shoes for you.  Everyone’s foot, posture, and running style/form is unique so make sure you get a pair of kicks that match your unique swag…assuming you have some type of swag that is.

Break In The New Kicks

Now, if you do get new shoes, make sure to break them in with short runs first.  Do not thrust your new kicks straight into the game!  Warm them up for a few weeks and then make the switch.

I made this mistake and my tendons and calves paid the price for nearly a week.   So, learn from my mistakes and make sure you break in your new kicks before using them on longer distance runs.

 

3. Switch Your Routes

“Running is boring…same house, same dog, same ugly mailbox…everday.”

Okay, well that’s an easy fix – just change up your route.  Poof!  Boredom solved…and then some!

There’s much more to switching your routes than just staying interested.

By switching your route you keep muscle memory and focus in check.  Switching your routes helps prevent you from just going through the motions mentally and physically.  By switching your routes you will stay engaged on all levels while helping bust through weight loss or cardio training plateaus.

Each Route Is Not Created Equal

Having different running routes is a very important part of any workout regimen – especially when it comes to recovery and gains.

I personally have four main routes I utilize for specific purposes;

1. Easiest Run: To The Horses

(To get back in the game or on hard plyo/leg days)

This is a 2.25 mile run with little elevation changes that takes me from my home to  a horse ranch about a mile from my home.  Other than the occasional stray dog this run is my go-to when trying to get back in the game or any time I do a lot of legs or a very intensive plyometric workout.

2.    Easy Run: To Duluth

(A nice run to build speed and endurance for any day of the week really)

This is a 2.5 – 3.0 mile run that takes me to downtown Duluth.  The run is pretty easy, has a bit more hills than “To The Horses” does, and, though it is a longer run, has more scenery changes which makes the run seem a good bit shorter than the aforementioned 2.25 run.  I utilize this run to help bring my speed and endurance up to par.

3.    Medium Run: To Sugarloaf

(A bit harder run to build speed and endurance on days you feel good)

This is a 3.0 mile with two steady-slope hills to climb.  I normally run this route when I feel good and want to beat my best time.  This is a very straightforward run with only two changes of direction which allows me to really focus on running a bit quicker.

4. Harder Run: Through the Hood and To The Woods

(A medium to hard run to build strength, cardio, and endurance on days I feel really good…specifically after a good Yoga session)

This run can be 2.25 – 5 miles (same route run twice) and has by far the most elevation and directional changes of all my runs.  I save this run for days I feel really good and feel like pushing myself a bit harder.  If I run this route after a good leg or plyo workout I literally feel as if I were walking the route.

 

4. It’s All About Elevation…Or Pushing Yourself

No matter what you’ve heard or what you think, the secret to using runs to gain cardio stamina and/or lose weight is to get that heart rate up…and there are three ways to make this happen while running;

 1.    Elevation

The first trick requires finding the right route – the right route being a route that changes elevations.  If your route forces you to run up and down hill your legs will be forced to work harder which will in turn force your heart to work harder, which equals more calories burned.

 2.    Weights

The second trick to help build your cardio or spur on weight loss is to add weights to the equation.  You can do this via a weighted vest, some ankle weights, or by just walking with a pair of dumbbells in your hand.  Whatever you fancy, if you don’t dig running up and down hills just throw some weights in the mix.

3.    Pushing Yourself….Interval Training

The last trick to increasing your heart rate during a run is to push yourself.  This trick requires a bit more self-discipline (which is why I personally let elevation force me to work harder) but if you don’t like the other two options than this would be your best bet.  In essence, you’d want to make sure, either via a heart rate monitor or a pace tracker, that you’re pushing yourself harder each and every run.

With this option you have two approaches;

  1. Try to beat your previous pace every run or
  2. Interval Training (i.e., sprint for 30 seconds, run for 45 seconds, jog for 1 minute, and repeat).  You can Interval Train however you’d like but the point is to get your heart rate really high for a bit, let it get back down, and repeat.

 

5.  Get Back Into It Easy

I really can’t stress this last tip enough – it is extremely important to get back into your running game nice and easy.  Note that I am not saying nice and slow but nice and easy instead.

What I mean by getting back into it easily, is to not push yourself too far or too fast too soon.

Take your first 3 or so days back in the game easy.  Maybe you run a shorter distance faster, or a longer distance slower, or you just go out for a nice few jogs.  The point is to ease back into your top form.

The Two Week Approach

Run more or less 3 days in a row the first week back with a day off on the fourth day.  Then go at it a bit harder on day 5 and lay off the gas a bit on day 6.  Take day 7 off so you can start the second week off a bit stronger, faster, and better prepared.  By the end of the week two you’ll be back to your old self.

Trust me, the best thing to do for a running injury is to not run, so don’t start running again by injurying yourself just because your pride gets in the way – slow and steady fellas…unless you’re trying to build up cardio…but you know what I mean.