In Running, There are Shortcuts
You may have heard the phrase, “There are no shortcuts in running.” I’m here to tell you that is dead wrong! There is so much more to becoming a better runner than, well, running. As a rule of thumb, it’s necessary to simply put in miles to be a proficient runner. If you’re new to running, just get out and run. You’ll improve by leaps and bounds just by getting out the door and building little by little over a long period of time. There are all kinds of ways to get better and faster through running alone. Speed work! Tempo runs! Fartleks! More miles! However, making a few small adjustments to your training regimen can streamline the process, propelling you to that next breakthrough even more quickly.
A Tale of Two Boston Marathons
December 2010 - I was preparing to run the Boston Marathon for the first time. My training regimen consisted of running, running, and more running. When peroneal tendinitis lead to forced time off for the first time in my running career, I had no clue what to do with myself. I grudgingly hopped on the stationary bike once or twice but found it painfully boring. I coped with my emotions about not being able to run by eating a whole lot of junk food. I attended physical therapy appointments but never did the prescribed exercises at home. They seemed tedious and didn’t provide immediate results. I thought, what is the point? I pretty much sat around waiting for my leg to heal, which it did… eventually. When I began running again, it wasn’t pretty. I had lost so much fitness that it felt as if I were starting from scratch. I had gained weight and didn’t feel like myself. I did run and finish the Boston Marathon, but it was the most painful (and slowest) marathon I’ve run to date.
December 2013 - I may be cursed. I wound up injured the same exact month before diving into training for my second Boston Marathon! Not wanting history to repeat itself, I dutifully cross trained on my bike (that time I took it outside on my single speed- way more fun!) and kept up with physical therapy at home. I took a friend’s sage advice to eat more veggies and whole foods. As a result, the transition back into running was fluid. I had maintained my base aerobic fitness through cross-training and I was resilient from the physical therapy. I wasn’t in the shape of my life, but I finished the 2014 Boston Marathon sixteen minutes faster than my first, running strong from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.
The Shortcut Theory
When facing that first injury, I had nothing to fall back on (including experience). In my mind, I was nothing without running. When it happened again a few years later, I used every tool I had at my disposal to get healthy again. By that logic, what if instead of adopting good habits as a kneejerk reaction to an injury, I used them as an accompaniment to my running when I was healthy? I put this theory to the test over my next training cycle. I wasn’t putting in a crazy amount of miles compared to the past or piling on the workouts. I maintained the good habits I had developed and continued building on my years of training. Seven months later, I trained for and ran the Philadelphia Marathon, shaving off another 23 minutes for a lifetime best of 2:59.
My Favorite Running Shortcuts
Taking “shortcuts” has certainly worked wonders not only for my running but for maintaining good habits through all the ups and downs. You can only reach a new PR by training for one; but why take the backroads when you can take the highway? Here are a few of my favorite running shortcuts that I’ve used in training:
My go-to warm up before I head out for a run is the Runner Touch. It just takes a few minutes and it’s good for maintaining hip strength and stability. 2 x 12 reps on each side.
Skip the Sugar
No, not all sugar! What am I, some kind of monster? Try to make one definite adjustment and stick with it. I stopped putting sugar in my coffee one year ago. It was hard for the first two weeks, but now I love the way coffee tastes without it. Another idea could be swapping out soda for La Croix or sparkling water. This may be really difficult if you’re a regular soda drinker, but give it two weeks and see how you feel.
Keep nutritious snacks around the house
I’m way more likely to grab a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts if they’re available, rather than wander over to the bakery across the street (though I’d be lying if said I don’t still wander over from time to time).
Add a cross training day
My cross training day is Monday when I typically feel a bit tired or sore from my Sunday long run. I don’t put pressure on myself to do anything spectacular. It usually means getting to the YMCA for a 20-30 minute easy pool run or attending a yoga class. Just change it up somehow and do something nice for your body!
Go to bed!
I started setting an alarm at night to remind me to get ready for bed. More sleep = faster recovery.
What Are some of Your Running Shortcuts?
What are some of your running shortcuts? Share in the comments below!