Of all the scientific fitness methods, complex fad workouts, equipment-laden exercise regimes, running remains one of the best for the sheer beauty of its simplicity – it’s literally an exercise we’ve been programmed to do by nature and evolution.
But running is more than just an exercise; it’s a map for how to live your best life. It shows you where you came from, where you’re going, and, most of all, brings the here and now into focus: it’s just you, your two feet, and life’s open road ahead of you.
So tie up your shoes and let’s hit the streets. We’re heading off on a run.
8 Tips for Running and Living the Best Way You Can
Mind your posture.
It’s more than a healthy habit. Good posture elevates your entire presence.
Longer distance runners can sometimes lose their form; they begin to slouch and run awkwardly, almost as if they have to poop like RIGHT NOW and are trying to fast-walk home before it’s too late.
Focus intently and obsessively on your form while running. Keep your core engaged, your butt squeezed, your head up, and your shoulders pulled back. Have nothing in your hands so you can swing your arms forward and back (not side to side) with your palms as flat as a judo chopper’s.
Stride with grace and confidence.
Own your footsteps, even if you’re faking it. (Fake it till you make it.)
Aim for long, lean, quiet strides, rather than short, jarring, baby steps. Hit the ground just past the middle of your foot on the two balls – this will minimize joint pain and give you good speed, endurance, and calves that are jacked as all hell. Avoid the dragging-your-heels running, as well as the exaggerated ridiculousness of tippy-toe running – humans are not gazelles.
Picture a stone silently skipping across a still pond. Run like your feet are that stone.
And remember to stretch after (but not before).
Live in the moment.
It’s hard not to get tangled up in what happened yesterday and what might happen tomorrow. It’s hard to be here and now, in the moment.
The beauty of running is that thoughts about yesterday and tomorrow can go take a hike; all that matters is the two voices arm wrestling in your head. One voice wants you to stop, and the other voice wants you to keep going. The more tired you get, the louder the stop voice gets; and the longer you resist that voice (within reason, of course) the stronger you feel…
…and then it hits you: you’re living in a moment.
I would highly recommend that you try running without music stuffed in your ears. Just be there with yourself, listen to your heart, listen to the world, feel your body temperature rising, and focus on this:
You are breathing.
That’s all, just breathe.
Aim for quick, uniform, controlled breaths – in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Focus obsessively on your breathing because nothing else really matters in that moment. You also want to avoid getting a stitch in your side, caused by erratic breathing.
It may take some time to condition your cardiovascular system to only require short, controlled breaths – but don’t get discouraged! Keep aiming for it, keep focusing on it, and everything else about running will fall into place.
Resist consumer culture.
Running isn’t about buying more shit; it’s about returning to your primal self.
Keep your running purchases simple and minimal. Attire-wise, short shorts work best for summer, but go for tights during colder temperatures – I wear shorts overtop cause no one needs to see my business flopping about. Wear a loose-fitting top and be careful of shirts made with sporty synthetics as they can severely irritate your, ahem, nipples – speaking from excruciatingly painful experience (always wear cotton against your sensitive areas).
The only shoes I ever buy are Asics – don’t bother lusting after the sexy big name brands, like Nike or Adidas; they are no good for running. You can often get last year’s Asics model for a good price. Avid runners usually replace their shoes after 6 months – but use your judgment there, depending on how much you run.
Eat like a warrior.
Your body is a formidable machine designed by evolution and nature to store energy for survival. Trust in your body.
Unless you’re a marathon runner, your body is more than fully capable of running (an hour or less) without being fed or watered right before (though I would recommend hydrating yourself at least a half hour before). Of course you should always listen to your body, but from my experience you don’t need fancy hip water bottles or a camel backpack – or those freaky gel packs runners ingest.
Your body won’t dry up and run out of fuel.
On a particularly hot day, I will stop at a water fountain and take a few sips, but you’ll find if you start running that having food or too much water in your stomach will only have a negative effect on your performance. If you’re worried about this, try doing laps around the block, staying close to your house – rather than running off into the sunset.
Like a warrior, wait until after your run (the hunt) to eat a big meal – which is the time when your body needs the food to repair and refuel.
Be kind to yourself.
Rest your body, rest your mind, rest your soul.
While running will clear your mind, it will also tire your body out – so give yourself lots of time to rest between runs. I wouldn’t run two days in a row, and would limit running to three, maybe four times a week.
Shorter and faster runs, like Tabata sprints, are typically better for your body and your joints – but before I put you through that (very rewarding) torture, let’s keep one thing in mind — which is true about life, and running:
Take it one step at a time.
Let’s go running.