Running Hacks: What Do You Wish a Runner Had Told You Sooner?

I recently arrived at the start line of a half marathon with a friend who had the cutest arm warmers on. Only they weren’t “technically” runner arm warmers at all. She goes to the dollar store and buys kid’s knee high socks and cuts a hole thru the toes and uses those instead. If she finds herself getting too hot on a run, she can ditch them in a trash can without much heartache. I’ve been running for well over a decade now, and I’ve learned many tricks of the trade over all those years, but this “runner’s hack” never occurred to me. Then I realized that if I hadn’t heard of this hack, maybe there were others out that we could all share amongst each other. Below, you’ll find some of our blogger’s favorite running hacks. We’d love to see some comments on some of your favorite “tips and tricks” relating to running as well!!

Nikki’s Hacks:

Use common household items vs specialty running items. If you’ve ever planned a wedding you probably already know that attaching the word “wedding” to items like flowers, a cake, or a white dress seems to double (or triple!) the cost. The same could be said for running gear, especially in recent years. In addition to the brilliant suggestion on the arm warmers above, I’d have to say there’s merit in using substitutions if you are a runner. As much as I love supporting the local running stores, I’ve found that “real food” like applesauce pouches, bananas, trail mix, and gummy bears, can be just as beneficial as the typical runner’s fuel. Of course, this all depends on your stomach. Additionally, a tub of Vaseline is easier on the wallet than some of the other solutions you can find for chafing and blisters. You might have also seen people at races wearing trash bags over their clothes, and this is a great solution to the “how do I stay warm but not worry about leaving my clothes on the course and being able to find them again later” problem. You can just strip off the bag when you get warm and off you go. My husband prefers bandanas to running buffs and they are generally cheaper as well.

Underwear shouldn’t break the bank. On one of my runner groups on Facebook, there was a great string of comments debating on which underwear to buy for running. Some people are paying $20 and more for a single pair of good running underwear. But surprisingly, a lot of people are now opting for just going without underwear at all since running tights often provide enough crouch coverage for people to feel secure while running. There are also several microfiber options by Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, and other cheaper brands that won’t break the bank but won’t leave you at the mercy of cotton.

Neither should shoes. Speaking of breaking the bank, I always look out for my running shoes getting an update. This is not because I want to buy the new version of my current shoe, it’s because I want to stock up on the old version before they are gone from stores. Often they will go on sale or clearance. Websites like Holabird Sports and Running Warehouse are great options for this.  Definitely support your local running stores whenever you can, but keep in mind other options when you run as much as I do and can’t afford to buy new running shoes at full price every few months.

Put your cell phone in a plastic bag. This seems like an easy one, but I’m sometimes surprised that people see me on rainy days with my phone in a plastic bag and think it’s brilliant. It’s cheaper than buying a fancy waterproof bag and you can still sometimes use your phone through the bag.

Sleep in your running clothes. When I have to get up super early for a run, I will sometimes sleep in my running clothes. Not only is it one less thing to think about in the morning, but your clothes are already nice and warm when you step outside into the cold. Even if I don’t sleep in running clothes, I do like to leave everything out the night before to make everything easier in my morning fogginess.

Using bib clips instead of safety pins. For years, I put holes in all of my shirts when I’d use safety pins to put my race bibs on. Worse, if it rained, sometimes they’d get rusty and leave marks on my shirts forever. Eventually I saw an ad on Facebook for Running Buddy bib clips and they were inexpensive enough that I decided to give them a try. I’ve never looked back. I get comments on them every time I wear them. Untile they come up with a better solution to races than running bibs and pines, I’ll use these. My only complaint is that they don’t fit through thicker jackets.

Meg’s Hacks:

Water fountains are your friends. Although I have a great running backpack and lots of options for water bottles to carry, I prefer running with as little as possible (beyond the cell phone, car key, and ID). So I plan most of my running routes based on water fountains. I’ve developed a half-marathon loop that gets me a fountain at mile 2, another at 5, OMSI at 7 (where there is also a nice bathroom), Fred Meyer at 9 (for a snack if needed), and one last fountain at 11. Other than during freezing weather, the water fountains in Portland Metro are running year-round.

Simple snacking on the run. After years of trying different brands, flavors, and portions, I’ve found that the snacks that are made for running, like GU’s, do not sit well with my stomach. I’d take one, then within 15 minutes feel nauseous for the next mile. Not quite worth the calories and caffeine. Finally I started to play around and find what worked for me. Enter pressed bars by Kind. My favorite is the dark chocolate banana. I get a portable snack that I can take a bite at a time (rather than shoot the whole packet). I love the tastes, and I love love love knowing that they are simple ingredients. For example, the Mango Apple Chia has…mango, apple, and chia. That’s it. My tummy and my head are happier with this option.

Golf ball massagers. About three years into running I had my first athletic issue: plantar fasciitis. Part of me was excited to have a “runner’s injury” but another part was super annoyed to be hobbling around. I went through lots of online searching, best practice recommendations from friends, and one disheartening appointment with a doctor (“You need to run less, or stick to treadmills.”). The final solution, for me, came through a friend who recommended using a golf ball to press in the exact space where my foot hurt. The friend gifted me with two Spongebob Squarepants golf balls to try it out. The small size was not only easier to focus on my pain point, but also allowed me to easily keep one in my backpack for any at-work issues. And after watching a billion episodes of that yellow menace with my younger brother, it was an added bonus to squish his face into my foot.


Matt’s Hacks:

Sleep in your gear: I start my work day really early, but that still doesn’t make a morning person. Just getting up and motivated is a whole ordeal that I’d prefer I didn’t have to deal with. When I travel for work, I sometimes have even less morning time to get ready as I am traveling around different cities for meetings and such. I have found that when I know the only time I am going to have free is super early morning, that sleeping in the majority of my gear (tops and bottoms), and having my socks and shoes at the foot of my bed makes me at least feel that I’m 3/4 of the way ready and I might as well leave the warm confines of my bed and venture out into the world.

Invest in a few pairs of running socks: While running is often billed as the cheapest sport (I mean, everyone can run), it can definitely get spendy with great gear and accessories. When I was first getting started running, the last thing I spent money on was true running socks. I mean, they are socks – what’s the big deal. Turns out, they were actually quite a big deal and my feet thank me for them every day. I would say that they are even more important than nice tech tops or shorts.I found that as soon as I upgraded, I had less foot pain and now I will never go back. Sure, they are pricy, but be on the lookout for sales at local running stores and invest in a handful of pairs. After all, keeping your feet happy is the best way to stay running.

Freeze handhelds during summer runs: Most people don’t like running in the warm temperatures, but I find that they can be awesome if you plan accordingly. If you aren’t opposed to carrying a water bottle in your hand when running (hydration is a must in warm temperatures – so wear a pack if you can), I found that filling a water bottle up half way with water, laying it on it’s side in the freezer overnight, and then filling up when it’s run time keeps handheld water much colder during those long runs. Without this, handheld bottles can get warm too fast and cause longer planned runs to get cut short.

About Author

I'm the owner of Healthy Girl Fitness and I'm a personal trainer, certified AFAA group exercise instructor, and an RRCA certified running coach in SW Portland. I am also the mother of two young boys and am on the board at my youngest son's school. I led a relatively inactive life throughout my 20's until I discovered the world of fitness and running. I ran my first marathon in 2006 and haven't looked back since.

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