Wednesday, July 13, 2016

10 Tips Guaranteed to Make You a Better Runner (or your money back)

I've had a lot of time to contemplate the meaning of life and the best gel flavor (salted caramel) on my runs lately (as I've been running about 10 hours total per week). I've also given lots of thought to what I've learned about running over the past 7 years, Most of these amazing words of wisdom come from other runners, the check out girl at Target ("It's a match!), my dad and construction workers. Well, not really, but they did come from a variety of sources I can't remember.

1. Don't Let the First (or Second) Mile Scare You Off. The first mile is a shit storm. Always. At least for me. I have to power through it mentally and know that I will settle in. If I gave up every time I had a shitty first mile, I'd never run more than a mile.

2. Don't Compare. I suck at this, but I try. The saying really is true: "Comparison is the thief of joy." I can be plodding along feeling really great about my training or my latest PR, then I notice all the people who are faster and stronger and just like that I can get down on myself. Just don't even go there. It's your journey. There will always be those who are faster and stronger and there will always be those who are slower and weaker. Just be you.

3. Buy Running Shoes at Least a Half Size Larger Than Your Regular Shoes. Your feet swell when you run. That means your shoes will feel small if you don't size up. You will also lose more toenails if you don't size up. Trust me on this one. 

4. Never Trust a Fart. This one goes back to that movie "Along Came Polly" when the infamous combination of fart and shit were combined into one beautiful term: shart. Runners experience this more frequently than they would probably like to admit. When we run, the gut gets sloshed around and the stomach can get cranky. This often results in the need to pass gas or poop. Often times runners will take a chance on a fart, assuming it will only be air. However, there is sometimes a chaser...if you know what I mean. These days, I don't stop for every fart (I'd never finish  run), but I'm damn careful.

5. Dress Like It's 10 Degrees Hotter Outside Than It Is. This means, don't over dress, you idiot. When I first started running I seriously contemplated wearing my down coat. I mean, I do live in Colorado and run in cold temperatures. But as any runner knows, your body temperature heats up quickly and your heart rate soars. This means in no time you will be stripping off the layers. Probably easier to endure 5 minutes of being a bit chilly, than an entire run of sweltering. I learned this little tip by Googling, what to wear when running. There is actually a sweet little tool where you input weather conditions and it tells you what to wear. Just like your mama! Basically this means in the summer you go naked 100% of the time.

6. Shut Up and Run. Hmmm...can't recall who said this one. Basically, this is the mantra to get you out the door. Truly I started this blog because I got so sick of people making excuses for why they didn't do what they said they were going to do (myself included). SUAR means stop your bitching and just do it (<I also made that up). It means stop letting your brain talk you out of things. Get out the door before you even know what you are doing and simply get it done.

7. Don't Assume It's Going to Get Worse. It was my physical therapist who gave me these words of wisdom when I was training for Ironman Florida. He told me that I was going to hit really low points or run into unexpected challenges and that it was imperative that I didn't catastrophize things. I use this mantra all of the time now. When I am in the middle of a ridiculously challenging long run or race, I remind myself that the pain and experience of being in the mental toilet is temporary and that it won't get worse. And, it usually doesn't. 

8. If It Doesn't Feel Right, It Probably Isn't. For a variety of reasons, but mostly because my cousin Sherry was murdered while running, I am hyper vigilant when I'm out there. I make eye contact if someone is looking at me. I pay attention to people sitting in their cars when I run by (and I usually cross the street). I carry my phone. I run with confidence and alertness. If my gut tells me something is wrong, I listen. You can never be too careful.

9. Injuries are Expensive and Depressing.  My first few years of running were plagued by injuries. In hindsight this was because I was doing too much too soon and definitely not listening to my body. I would run with pain, thinking it would go away or that I just had to toughen up. Nope. This is the worst thing you can do. If it hurts, don't ignore it. Take time off.

10. Carry Toilet Paper, Money and a Phone.

Best running tip you've ever gotten?


PS: I'm going to Chicago this weekend and want to run about 8 miles each day. I'm staying downtown on Adams St (JW Marriott). Any advice for where to run?


  1. Just got back from Chicago...LOVE IT!! Anyway. You are going to be just a few blocks east of Lakeshore drive (Lake Michigan) which has an EXCELLENT lakeside path for running. One you make it to the path, run NORTH (keep the lake to your right on the way "out") and you should be good to go! Great sightseeing and plenty of people out and about doing the same thing while not having to dodge people and cars on city streets for endless miles. Also sunrise was around 5am last week so you can get out early and still feel safe if you are going alone (as I was)

    1. Another Melissa just back from Chicago too! Yes, the lake trail is terrific, although I managed quite a bit of dodging people on sidewalks too because we weren't staying quite as close to the lake. Grant Park was closed off for the Taste of Chicago last week but might be back to normal again by now--it's really pretty, and shady too. Just north of that, there's also a park with a funky bridge that leads to Millennium Park and the big bean sculpture. Also fun. Depends on if you want to run and sightsee, or just run.

  2. Best running tip? Shut up and run.
    Next is, stop before you have to stop.

  3. never talk about running (or give running advice) to those who don't run.... Cheryl

  4. I've lived in Chicago for ages, and I work near Adams at Michigan Ave. If you're downtown, I think the Lakefront is the best way to go. However, due to all the crowds between downtown and the Mag Mile going north, you might find that south is less crowded (the Taste is over, so it will be less crowded south).

    For myself, I love running from Monroe to the lakefront, then down past the Shedd Aquarium, along the trail to the Planetarium, back up and through the new paths of Northerly Island. Then I return along the lake, returning West to downtown along Jackson or Monroe. If you want more distance, you can extend your route down to McCormick Place, but Northerly Island's weaving trails should get you to 8. From Adams and Michigan to the Planetarium and back is about 4 or 5, depending on which way you go.

    My favorite spot is the little peninsula right past the planetarium where it's just concrete and water. I always look forward to that and find it really invigorating.

    I'm happy to share some runkeeper maps over email, if you like -- just my gratitude for your blog which has provided me good tips and sincere motivation whenever I've had the chance to read it.

    1. Thanks for this!! Based on your description I'm hoping I can find my way.

    2. Sure, it's an honor to share my beloved downtown run.

      I just re-read my directions and couldn't help worrying that they might be confusing, so I made a new map for my own sanity:

      Either way, enjoy my town!

    3. That's my favorite route in Chicago too!! And you should also check out the new Virgin Hotel on Wabash and Lake. Great post-run pancakes and an amazing rooftop bar for that cocktail later in the day. 😉

  5. You should just run the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon and they will lead you 13.1 miles of that.

  6. I am looking forward to reading about your trip, I am going there in a couple of weeks (same hotel!) and was also wondering about running routes.

    Best running tip - run first thing in the morning (well, after coffee and a bathroom break), I know not everyone's a "morning person" but I have found it so much easier to run before the day gets in the way. And, this time of year, it's cooler -)

  7. My favorite run in Chicago is take the Lakefront trail to Lincoln Park Zoo and run a round the zoo. Its probably 4.5 miles from your hotel so it would make a tad longer than 8 miles. I love getting there early and see them feed the animals and its free!

  8. When I first started running I would only run outside if the weather was good conditions. If it was snowy, rainy, windy or just plain shitty I would run on the treadmill. Then one day I realized the races I was signed up for could be in any weather. I had to not make weather an excuse to stay inside or skip a run.
    Now I will run regardless. I feel it really bumps up the mental game too.

  9. i have started carrying the summer eve individually wrapped wipes for potty emergencies. GAME CHANGER!!! plus if i bring to a race and don't use it i pass it on to the next girl inline at the porta john.

  10. Yes yes yes!!! I've learned the last one the hard way!!!

  11. Injuries are expensive. I've spent $$ on new bathing suits, yoga clothes, bike gear....

  12. yes to the lakefront path in Chicago! just a heads up, it's the Rock'n'Roll 5K on Saturday and 10K and Half Marathon Sunday, which are both in Grant Park (the one you'll have to run through to get to the path) so it may be a little busy, but lot's of great energy!

  13. If you don't feel like running/having an internal debate, put your running clothes on - including shoes. you will feel like an idiot sitting around in your running clothes and not run. and out the door you go. - Renee

  14. Never Compare........I'm so terrible at this but I learned a hard lesson last year training for my first Ultra. A runner friend of mine kept taking digs at everything I was doing for my training and how they would do it completely different if they were training for my race(they've never run an Ultra). I started doubting everything I was doing because I thought they knew what they were talking about and it turns out they were talking out of their butt and I let it ruin an amazing experience.

  15. have started carrying the summer eve individually wrapped wipes for potty emergencies. GAME CHANGER!!! plus if i bring to a race and don't use it i pass it on to the next girl inline at the porta john.

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  17. Just read this very good and couldnt help laughing at the Shart bit im new to running and after naming a strava run as fartstrider! Im well aware of the air beneath me during runs :)

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    Thanks again

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