5 Tips to Make Running Easy

Athletic people like to set goals. By setting and exceeding self-imposed goals, we gain invaluable confidence in addition to a better body, better health, and a better brain. Yet, if we push too hard, we risk mental burnout and physical exhaustion. We need to learn how to balance the pros and cons of pushing our limits.

In order to perform at our best, we should use efficient techniques so our bodies bear less of a burden. My preferred sport is running. By making running easier, I try to lengthen my running career and my health. Here are some simple but effective ways I have found to challenge myself without risking burnout.

Shortening one’s stride.

Although this seems counterintuitive, shortening your stride actually helps you take more steps per minute. With more steps every minute, you cover more ground, and save the energy you would otherwise expend trying to cover more ground. For context, it has been suggested that one ought to take 180 steps/minute.

Keep one’s head up.

An interesting study conducted by New York University concluded that if a runner simply keeps his eyes focused on something in front of him a run may seem both shorter and easier. These tactics allow us to achieve our goals, gain confidence and remain motivated.

Lean forward.

While running, make a conscious effort to lean forward with your ankles on every step. By using gravity to our advantage, we reduce the workload on our legs, thus making ourselves faster while making the workout less taxing. Think of it as “falling forward,” but make sure you don’t get too caught up falling forward—or you may end up falling on your face.

Relax the arms.

Many of us tense our shoulders and tightly bend our elbows when we run, but this wastes  energy. Relax your shoulders and arms (to an extent) while running to use that energy for running instead of arm-pumping. Here are a few tips on how to improve arm form to make sure you’re getting the most out of every lunge forward.

Take recovery time.

Sitting on the couch does not scream ‘healthy,’ however it is necessary. Our bodies need time to recover in order to rebuild muscle so that when we run again, we run faster and more effectively. Pay attention to your body. As I wrote in a previous post, when to push and when to rest is simply an exercise in common sense.

Running may be high-impact but it does not have to be high risk. By implementing a few soft skills into a technique you greatly increase the likelihood of extending your running career.


Running Against Time

Lifelong runners tend to push their limits. We run despite injury often in the face of adverse weather and limited time. However, there are times as we age when we find ourselves questioning how we can possibly keep going. Our bodies change and become more vulnerable. Our stamina deteriorates and our joints become more fragile—and still we run. There are three stages in a runner’s career where it is time to step back and reflect on the best way to move forward:

Young Masters

Although many high-impact sports prohibit athletes from competing into their thirties, running is different. states the average age of a marathon runner is 38.7 years old. In fact, Constantina Dita was thirty eight when she won the gold medal at the 2008 Bejiing Olympics. Carlos Lopes was thirty seven when he won the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics.

Even though running may be high-impact, runners are often able to compete much longer than basketball or football players. They are, however, still prone to literally slowing down in this stage. So, although injuries may not be common yet, this stage does require a mental shift. Runners need to embrace setting less ambitious, more attainable goals in order to continue moving forward.

According to Amy Begley, a 2008 Olympian, every athlete has to be open to the change that comes with age. “There was a high point, and now they have to reset the goals.” While, yes, the body does continue to develop, it does so a slower rate and often discourages athletes. They become fixated on collecting a record of ‘personal worsts’ that creates a vicious circle of depression and thus more poor results.

Middle Masters

Although you may not be able to perform at your career peak during this level, this bracket of competition can still be incredibly rewarding. It offers a newfound opportunity to be the ‘young runner’ yet again, and allows you to reset your goals.

Many who had a busy family life in their thirties—and could not be as devoted to their running practice as they were in their youth—may suddenly find themselves with more time than ever so as their children become older and require less supervision. This allows middle masters to return to running whole-heartedly.

 It is also vital to remember that aging at this point is beginning to exact a toll, and the only way to ensure your forties aren’t spent fighting off and recovering from injuries, is to reevaluate personal records and adjust accordingly for a changing body.

Calves are of particular note. More specifically, inflexibility and muscle pulls are a plague that must be vigilantly guarded against at this age. The best way to accomplish this is to run upwards on a steep hill and count your strides as you climb. As you get stronger and faster, you should take less strides to cover the same distance. This way, you can measure your success and watch yourself grow. 

For middle masters, the most important thing is to be aware of typical injuries and to run with an attainable goal.

Super Masters

According to Marv Metzer, an 87-year-old from McCook, Nebraska, training has become more and more like work. Naturally, this makes it hard to continue running; but no matter how hard, it is important to continuously wipe the personal record slate clean, and revise appropriately.

In the face of physical deterioration, most seniors agree the only way to stay healthy is to keep exercising. Mike Reif, the coach of the Genesee Valley Harriers (an upstate New York club that has won dozens of masters championships), recommends that seniors “Use it or lose it. It’s very important to stay active and healthy.” Essentially, in order to keep the ball rolling, you should keep running.

Some seniors may opt for alternative forms of exercise that seem lower impact like yoga when running seems like it’s too much strain on the body; but that’s not necessary. You can shift your mental orientation. You can wipe the slate clean and reevaluate your personal record goals so are challenging but achievable. Each stage represents a new bracket of masters competition. Keep your eyes on the finish line.

8 Ways to Tone Down Your Inner Running Nerd Read

As a running enthusiast, I often times find myself swept up by the culture in the culture of it. Whether I’m immersed in where to find the most strenuous routes or discussing the newest model sneaker coming out, I can at times lose myself and forget that not all of us are so involved in running.

That’s why this piece hit so close to home for me, and why it will for you too. Check it out!

When to Push and When to Rest: an Exercise in Common Sense

When we exercise in any regard, we look to push our limits. We want to do better than before, to feel good about progress. I know after I run a route that’s new and maybe a little tougher than I’m used to, I feel it—maybe feel it a little too much. Soreness can be debilitating and injuries can flat out handicap you…and if you push your body when it has already had enough, it could cause an injury that is the beginning of the end. Yet, how do we make this distinction? How do we know how much soreness is too much soreness? Furthermore, is it possible that this soreness is just in our head, that we’re making something out of nothing and are missing days for ‘recovery’ when no recovery is even needed?

Well, it’s not all in our head, but it turns out that some of it may be. According to an insightful study conducted by Eric Hall and Nicole Razor at Elon University, there is a potentially heavy implication of “fear avoidance” that may or may not incite a vicious cycle that prevents runners from resuming normal activity, which translates to delayed healing. That delayed healing consequently means extended pain and inhibited performance. Basically, runners and other athletes may be worrying so much about their injury that they actually amplify its effects—insane, but understandable.

Hall and Razor essentially just gave a few questionnaires to various athletes that told them to indicate the degree to which they agree with sentences like “I will never be able to play as I did before my injury” & “I worry if I go back to play too soon, I will make my injury worse.” They also administered the Fear of Pain Questionnaire, the Pain Catastrophizing Scale and an anxiety questionnaire. For the record, these questions were given to injured athletes before intense exercise.

Perhaps predictably, the athletes’ answers seem to have played a role in how much pain they were feeling in the one to two days following their workout. Athletes who scored higher on these tests also reported more pain after exercising in addition to a greater fear of re-activating their injury. Just as well, athletes who cited experiencing levels of high anxiety also cited more pain and a greater fear of re-injury.

Now, we should keep in mind that, of course, this is not a cut-and-dry case, and this does not necessarily mean that soreness is all in our heads. The concept of the fear-avoidance model is subject to much debate, and as a result still needs to be substantially proven. The current results of Hall and Razor’s study merely provide a foundation for what will hopefully become a topic researched in great detail. In the meantime, its results/implications are intriguing.

For instance, if you stay off a sprained ankle too long because you are so afraid of hurting it again, you may actually be hurting it more in the long-run. Our injuries certainly need time to heal, but too much recuperation only results in a weaker, more vulnerable, more likely-to-be-hurt-again recovery that does nobody any good, least of all the athlete in question. Yet, if you get right back out there with an injury, you may only be making it worse, thus resulting in the same weakened recovery.

There is a balance to be struck and often this balance can only be found with experience. It takes time to realize what injuries are bad, which ones are minor, and which ones can be endured. I suppose the main takeaway here is this—listen to your body.

Pay attention to the degree of pain and to the extent of the injury’s seeming vulnerability. If it’s not that bad, act accordingly and deal with it. If the pain is excruciating, act responsibly and take some to time rest. More research will come; but in the meantime, practice common sense.

Running in Manhattan

Manhattan is a city that you can live in for 100 years and still not see everything. Running here is much the same way. As my feet pound on the sidewalk alongside the Hudson River, I can remember the many trails I have explored throughout the metropolis. There are a few, in particular, that have stood out to me though. From Central Park to the Hudson River to the Five Bridges, here is a curated list of the finest running paths in the city:

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Hudson River Run (8.91 miles)

While running paths in Central Park are generally the first to spring to mind for someone less familiar with the city, the Hudson River Park also offers equally stunning options with fantastic views of sunsets and shimmering waters. Very popular among pedestrians, runners, and cyclists for good reason, the wide path allows you to maneuver around hoards of people with ease. Not to mention, it takes you by some of New York’s most recognizable landmarks (the Statue of Liberty, Chelsea Piers, USS Intrepid, art installations, and the George Washington Bridge). Sweat and sightsee all at the same time, not a bad deal.

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Five Bridges Run (16.67 miles)

Traverse the boroughs on your own two feet as you cross the 59th St. Bridge, the Pulaski Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and (of course) the Brooklyn Bridge. Although this route is reserved for more seasoned runners (considering it is quite long, 16 miles in fact), it provides an excellent opportunity to change things up and see sights you usually wouldn’t encounter. On a Sunday morning, there are few things better than island hopping across New York City.
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East River Run (16.07 miles)

With unbelievable waterfront views of Manhattan, Hell’s Gate Bridge, Astoria, and Queensboro Bridge, this route is a fantastic chance to explore the city along a relatively unbeaten path. Even though it delves a little deeper into the city than most running trails, it avoids most of the cumbersome foot traffic that is so prevalent in the metropolis. There are also bathrooms and water fountains on Randall’s Island that you can use during a brief rest.

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Central Park Ramble (6.68 miles)

What would a list of running routes in Manhattan be without including Central Park? Although it doesn’t boast quite the same waterfront views as the East River and Five Bridges runs, it is significantly easier, shorter, and more apt for beginners. Plus, it does have some amazing views of the city’s most famous park. This trail will take you along the lakes in the park in addition to some of the outer rim in order to ensure you see the majority of the landscape while working up a sweat. When jogging by lush lawns and diverse trees in the summer, the monotony of running fades to the back of your mind, letting you push yourself to the absolute limit.

Well, I hope you are able to enjoy these running paths as much as I have been able to in the past. I have named the most well-known paths above but I am on a hunt for secret beauties so if there is a running path that you would like to share with me please don’t hesitate to send me a note!

To Rest or Not to Rest? That is the Question.

Last week, I decided to switch my running route up a bit to keep things fresh. I opted to stick to Central Park, but rather than run up West Drive next to the lake, I moved into the garden area just north of that. Much more narrow than West Drive, there is a multitude of meandering paths that criss-cross over each other as you run. Gorgeous trees provide a cool shade but the countless hills pushed my calves to the absolute limit.

As my legs were screaming, I concentrated on just putting one foot in front of the other to keep moving. I passed by bewildered tourists staring at me as I weaved around birdwatchers, playful toddlers, and other joggers. Just as I saw the path break before me into open road, I felt my ankle roll unnaturally and I fell to the ground. I felt my ankle go limp and I knew I had paid the price for forgetting my form, even if it was just for an instant.

Immediately, I began wondering when I might be able to get back out here to run again. Rest is vital to recovery, but I didn’t want to fall out of my rhythm, or take any longer than necessary to get back to my routine. In a previous post, I extolled the benefits of rest and how it can be absolutely integral to recovery. Yet, I also feel there is a balance to be struck between recovery and losing the gains I have worked so hard to attain.

Too much rest can get in the way, especially if it’s not a serious injury like a mildly rolled ankle. Fortunately, I came across this article noting that one does not need to stop exercising completely if they have been injured. While a period of rest from a specific routine is suggested, one does not need to stop all exercise entirely.

Apparently, Michael Wardian, a professional runner, “had multiple pelvic stress fractures and sports hernias,” but rather than spend his time lying on the couch, he rode a bicycle. He hiked across the mountainside. He aqua-jogged and swam his way back to health; and he’s not the only one.

Many athletes across all ends of the spectrum strive to remain as active as possible regardless injuries. Whereas before painkillers and numbing agents were the go-to’s of rehabilitation, experts have now realized that cross-training could very well be the answer to retaining fitness even after having suffered an injury. That said, there are several guidelines for working out while injured:

Know your body.

If, while cross-training, you experience any pain whatsoever, you should stop immediately. Talk to your doctor to ensure you are not worsening any physical issues. To overextend yourself is to extend your injury. Also, while painkillers, especially in this scenario, may seem like a viable alternative, you should remember that pain is important. It keeps you aware of your body’s health, and informs you if you are pushing things too far.

Figure out how you hurt yourself to begin with.

Recurring injuries are common because all-too-often we don’t realize why we hurt ourselves in the first place. If we are able to figure out why we hurt ourselves, we will be able to prevent the same mistake in the future. While physical therapy can certainly heal current issues, it cannot make you avoid them outright. So, pay attention to what caused your injury, and make sure you are able to avoid the mistake down the road.

Eat well.

Many athletes eat less and reduce their calories to avoid gaining weight during recovery, this is not necessarily the right course of action. In fact, if you lessen your nutrient intake, you could be extending your recovery time. Truthfully, the best idea is to balance your diet with your workout routine. If you are able to consistently exercise by cross-training, you shouldn’t have to alter your diet at all. However, if you are forced to cut back a little, you should only reduce your diet slightly. Make sure that just because you’re not exercising as much as usual, you don’t overcompensate by reducing your food intake too much.

The need for rest changes dynamically depending on the circumstance and severity of the injury. I suppose the best way to approach rest is to understand the nature of your injury, and then that way, you can properly assess the best course of action moving forward, whether that means no exercise whatsoever, or exercise that does not exasperate the sensitive area.

Never Neglect Rest

As the gravel crunches beneath my feet and sweat beads on my forehead, I pass by families, tourists, and fellow runners. Jogging down West Drive in Central Park may not be the most spacious of routes, but it may just be one of the most beautiful. The lake is adjacent to my right and it’s apparent that spring has arrived. Smiling, I swerve around slower runners and neglectful parents with toddlers when I realize I need a break and head over to a shaded area for a quick moment to catch my breath.

Arriving, I lie down on a piece of manicured lawn, breathe deeply, and look up at the leaves, taking note of the sunlight shining through the branches here and there. Closing my eyes, I feel my heart rate begin to slow, finally. My fifth day in a row running this week, I can feel my shins burning more than usual. My knees are aching and I’m not catching my breath as fast as I normally do.

Generally, I only run about 3-4 times a week so this extra day is taking a toll, a greater toll than I expected if I’m being perfectly honest. Acknowledging such to myself means one thing: I need to rest. Tomorrow, the only place I’ll be running to is my living room couch. It’s important to know when to rest. My last decade of running experience has taught me at least that much, but there are indicators other than simple fatigue that mean it’s time to take a break:

You’ve lost noticeable weight since your last run.

More specifically, by noticeable, I actually mean a 2% drop in weight. If it’s 2% or more, that can potentially mean a body fluid fluctuation, which likely means you just didn’t drink enough water either before, during, or after your last workout. As a result, your body is working overtime to counteract a lack of hydration and the extra work is taking a physical toll on your body, as can be seen by the 2% drop in body weight. If your body is already working overtime, then it cannot work to bolster your running performance, considering your body’s resources are already being spent trying to rehydrate you. It’s important to remember to rehydrate and rest so that your body’s resources can be spent on increasing performance.

Your resting heart rate is faster than usual.

To find out what “usual” is, you should take your pulse every morning when you wake up. As you can imagine, your resting rate is most exemplified when you’re sleeping. If you do this and then realize your resting heart rate is actually faster than what is normal, you should absolutely take a rest day. A sign of stress, an elevated heart rate essentially means that your nervous system has released hormones into your body in order to transport oxygen to your muscles and brain more quickly. So, if your heart is racing at rest, you’re best off taking a day to recuperate.

Your urine is a dark shade of yellow.

While not the most glamorous of indicators, if your urine is a dark shade of yellow, it may be because you are dehydrated, which means you should take a day off, drink a lot of water, and relax. However, certain vitamins, supplements, or specific foods (or the lack thereof) the night before can also induce a color change. Regardless, if you’re peeing dark yellow, you should take note and be wary.

Rest is integral to recovery. While pushing through the fatigue may seem like the most resilient thing to do, it is often not the smartest thing to do. Your body needs a chance to recover, even if your mental stamina doesn’t. With rest, your body will be better able to perform, to rebuild, and to exceed prior performance. With rest, you can continue to progress. Without it, your athletic performance could in fact regress.