Happy Friday, everyone! Welcome back for another blog post. I know I talk a lot about keto-related stuff (hello, it’s a keto blog), but I hope you guys know that I have a ton of other hobbies, too! Keto is a really big part of my life because it keeps me in good health. One of my other favorite ways to keep myself healthy is by getting some cardio in, specifically with distance running. Whether you’re just starting your first couch to 5k plan or you’ve run a few ultra marathons in your life, we can all find something about our runs that we can improve on. Here are some tips (that you may not have heard of) to help you be a better runner.

Typical, obvious running tips

You’re going to find these on almost any help article, but they’re just so necessary to getting better (in a safe way) that I want to make sure to include them. So, if you haven’t heard these before, then great! But if you have, let’s refresh.

Get shoes that actually fit you

Get shoes that actually fit you. Get shoes that actually fit you. Get shoes that actually fit you.

If you’ve never had your gait checked out by a professional, you can go to a running store and have your stride analyzed and get the right shoes for your gait, pronation, and running goals. I’ve done it once and it’s so worth the time. Check with some local runners to see which stores near you are trustworthy; some are only out to sell you upgrades for commissions. But many more stores have your best interests at heart.

Once you have the right idea about shoes that will work for your feet, be sure to buy them from a good retailer. I prefer Brooks shoes, personally, because they’re extremely durable and comfortable. They do not need a break-in period. They’re ready to run right out of the box. And they have a 90 day guarantee on all website purchases, no matter the wear. So if you run a mile in your new shoes each day for the next 89 days, and decide the shoes aren’t for you, you can still return them for something that fits you better. To me, that’s proof that they care about you and not their profits. We stan. Here’s a link to their website: www.brooksrunning.com

If you neglect to get good shoes, you can (and will) have all sorts of issues with your arches, knees, ankles, and hips. I’ve been through the ringer here with this. Don’t skimp on good shoes. Damage from bad shoes can have lifelong consequences. Get good shoes that fit you.

Hydrate and eat nutritious foods

Yes, we get it, everyone tells you to eat “better,” but what does that really mean? If you’re distance running like I am, this means that you need to be cutting out the crap that slows your body down. Even if you are not looking to lose weight or tone muscle or whatever, crappy foods can have serious health effects that will stunt your run progress. You don’t really have to run to please anybody but yourself, but please, if you’re trying to run for any reason, do it safely. Fuel your body for what’s ahead.

I use keto to stay fit, full, and in good health. (Psst, you can learn how to start in my ebook here!) When I run, I make sure to wean down on processed foods (like diet sodas and prepackaged goods) and eat more fresh, whole foods; I can really tell a difference in the way I feel when I do this. With keto, you should be paying attention to your electrolyte and sodium intake anyway, but especially when you’re doing a lot of physical activity. Make sure to drink lots of water and add a little bit of salt to it to make sure you’re actually retaining that water.

Find a good running app

Physical trainers greatly help in the gym, and run groups help on-the-go. But if you’re having trouble finding a group, or you prefer to run alone, a running app is a game changer. I like the UnderArmour Map My Run app. I pay $30 a year for the app (I know, pricey, but it’s so worth it). It renews annually. The app includes all sorts of challenges and customizable stats and voice coaching. You can customize plans by distance, goal pace, and time, and even select days of the week to run on. I like the voice coach a lot; I don’t feel like she’s annoying or pushy. You can set up custom intervals to ensure the app keeps you up-to-speed on how far you’ve run, too.

Other apps exist too, like Nike Fit Club, Nike Run Club, Apple’s native fitness app, and FitBit. Use whatever works for you.

Set realistic goals

Your run goals should be measurable and attainable. If you’re just getting started, get your app set up and start couch-to-5k. It’s one of the simplest plans for beginners. Or if you need to start smaller with walks around the block, do that. Find your ultimate goal (for me, I want to run a marathon one day) and break it down into bite-size pieces. Write it down, and be honest with yourself about whether or not you can complete those goals. I recommend setting goals that you know you can achieve, not ones that you hope for.

Remember that health is a long game, so don’t rush it. Your health is a lifetime goal, so that means you’ll never reach a point where you’ve “arrived.” You’re always going to need to prioritize your health-every day, every month, every year. You don’t need to be a runner that whole time, but you should be active in some form to remain well. If you do rush it a little, it’s ok! Give yourself breaks when you know you need them, with clearly-defined start back dates. Recognize what over-training feels like and how serious it is.

Unconventional Running Tips

Remember how I said I had to include the conventional tips because they’re crucial for success? Well, these are tips you may not have heard before. These are some of my personal tips and tricks (that I’ve developed over the years) to help me through mental hurdles and push through the hard stuff.

Distract your brain while you run

Most people do this by listening to music and/or watching TV in the gym. If you do this, perfect! But there’s other mind games you can play, too. Chewing gum helps me a lot with my running tempo, because it forces me to move my mouth so I breathe normally. I prefer mint – the tingliness from the flavor keeps my brain interested, and in the heat, it tricks me into feeling a little “cooler.” You know I run in some extreme heat, right? It’s Alabama.

Listen to a bomb playlist that hits around your run tempo, and throw a few cooldown songs in there. Spotify is my go-to for playlist creation. AND PRO TIP: Once you have a good playlist, you can use the playlist settings on the desktop app to create a SIMILAR LIST with music you may have never heard before! It’s so easy to curate good lists like this. Anyways, here’s my playlist if you want to listen. It only shows 100 songs on the preview, but there are over 200 on the actual list once you log in with a Spotify account.

Use hot baths to help you stretch

I do this thing all the time where I come home from a run and I’m so sweaty that the last thing I want to do is sit on the wood floor and stretch in my puddle of stench. Gross. So what happens is, I end up with a lot of tight muscles because I forget to stretch out before I cool down. Don’t stress if this is you, too! Here’s what you do.

Take a really hot bath. Like, really hot. Make sure you hydrate before and get water for during the bath. You want to be sweaty in this bath (but for the love of all things humane, check the temp so you don’t burn yourself – safety first). Sit in the bath for a solid ten minutes and then begin to slowly stretch your legs in the tub where you can. Stretch your ankles, toes, butt muscles, and back muscles. Once you’re done with your bath and all clean, stretch out your hip flexors with a good pigeon stretch.

This is not a real substitute for appropriately-timed stretching. You should still aim for that. But if you have an uh-oh and forget, this will help you mitigate muscle soreness the next day.

Reframe your struggle

This one is going to get weird, so you’re going to have to stick with me on this. Sometimes your brain needs a little convincing to feel prepared or comfortable with something, and we can use some psychology tricks to help. Let’s think about how you learn something new. By repetition, right?

Let’s look at an education site for an explanation of why this happens:

Repetition is a key learning aid because it helps transition a skill from the conscious to the subconscious. Through repetition, a skill is practiced and rehearsed over time and gradually becomes easier. –apl next ED

Repetition trains your muscle memory. Musicians use it. Artists use it. When you were learning how to write the alphabet in grade school, you were doing it. Our brains do this really cool thing when you repeat an action: it develops neural pathways to “shortcut” the thoughts required for that behavior. That’s why you’ve probably touched a hot stove, learned it’s hot, and always looked at it with a little fear that it may burn you (even when it isn’t on). Your brain is using a shortcut (the forged neural pathway from the experience of the hot stove) to save you from having to learn that information again.

When I’m having a hard time mentally justifying a run, usually because I just don’t feel like doing it, I cut negative thinking off immediately. I force myself to rewrite my own narrative. Instead of “I have to run,” I tell myself, “I get to run.” If guilt is your motivator, then think about how sad you would be if you could never run again. Use this time while you have it, just in case.

And let’s be honest, unless you’re a hostage, you don’t have to do anything. You should start thinking of these sort of things (exercising) as things that you just do (because they’re pieces of your personality or path to success). Complaining is just a waste of time. If you think about who you want to be, you should see these actions as a piece of that image. My goal is to be healthy for my family and to live a long life. That’s my “Why.” And running is a piece of that goal, so therefore, I do it. And the more I tell myself that I like to do things like running, the less my brain defaults to complaining.

My last reframing tactic is to make running an emotional event. I run to stay fit, sure, but I also run when I’m angry, frustrated, upset, or extremely happy. When you have so many emotions built up inside of you that you feel like you need to do something with that energy, try running it out! It’s a really good outlet for those emotions, and since I run alone, I get a lot of time to think about the way I really feel about emotional events so I’m ready to face them after the run is over.

And with that, I’m going to call this post a wrap. I have a ton more tips, but I’ll save some for another post. Want to know more? Let me know in the comments! And share your tips for being a better runner with the group.

Until next time,

<3 RKF