10 Healthy Habits of (Insanely) Passionate Runners

Runners find common ground in everything from cross-training to tan lines. Illustrations: Neil Numberman

What are the common bonds that runners share? Here’s a good starting point.

How does one become a dedicated runner? Though we come from all walks of life and certainly have our own methods in pursuing our passion, it seems that most runners have common bonds between us—things we do, quirks we accept, lifestyle choices we embrace.

So go ahead, look through this list of 10 healthy habits and see how many ring a bell.

We Cross-Train

To quote Jack Nicholson’s character from “The Shining:” “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The same can happen with running day after day. Mixing up your routine by adding in swimming, skiing, weight lifting, cycling, yoga or a new class stimulates your mind, gives your body a break from the same repetitive motion by engaging different muscles and keeps training entertaining. Cross-training also helps runners increase upper body and core strength (and makes you look good!), contributing to improved form and running efficiency.

We Are Consistent

If you ask any runner who wins races about their “secret sauce,” chances are good they’ll taut the benefits of consistency. But that doesn’t mean you have to run every day. It does mean establishing a routine, even a loosely structured one, such as having a long run on Sundays, a tempo day on Tuesdays and using Thursdays for speed work. And once you have a plan, you have to follow it. Schedule training sessions like meetings and stick to your schedule. A routine will help you know what to expect mentally and physically. You accept it. Your body accepts it. Your family and friends accept it. Your significant other who feels neglected accepts it. And before you know what’s happened, training and running becomes a regular part of your life.

We Are Open to New Things

Minimalism, maximalism, carbo-loading, Paleo, heel striking, barefoot running—all the theories and trends can leave you running in circles. Still, there is much to be gained from paying attention to the latest research and innovative products. Sure, you can do things the way you’ve always done them, but the learning process that comes with trying a new training method, running in a different style of shoes or switching up your routine can make you a better, healthier and happier runner. There is no one “right” shoe, eating method or running form for everyone. But a wide variety of ever-evolving options give more people the opportunity to enjoy running to the fullest—including you.

We Get Plenty of Sleep

You know you need more sleep, but you just don’t have the time—too bad. According to recent studies, getting enough sleep not only helps with concentration (imperative for overanalyzing race splits) and makes it easier to shed pounds and maintain weight loss (those 1 a.m. cupcake cravings are your sleepy head talking, not your belly), but it also helps bodies to heal and recover from exercise. How much sleep is necessary varies from person to person, but aiming for seven to nine hours a night is a good goal. Power naps work too, as long as they don’t interfere with a solid, rejuvenating sleep cycle. Think of it as active recovery!

We Always Have a Goal

Training for a race provides instant structure to your running in the form of a training plan and a race date. Guesswork is taken out of the equation and inspiration is a given. No, you don’t always need to have a race on the calendar, but how else are you going to get new tech T’s? If racing isn’t your thing, try running a new route, booking a running vacation, increasing your mileage, running with a group once a week or seeing if you can increase your speed. It’s hard to stay engaged without something on the horizon. The idea is to give purpose and energy to your running. Remember, this is fun! (And a totally acceptable goal is beating your running partner. We won’t judge.)

We Have a Favorite Shoe Among the Hundreds

Runners are pack rats—we save all our medals, bibs, moldy water bottles, training logs, sweat-stained everything and, most importantly, shoes. But underneath the pile of mismatched brands, dirt and offensive aromas lies the golden ticket—the one pair of trainers that never disappoints and always leaves us satisfied. We love to test new shoes and products and brag about new brands we saw first, but we always come home to our one and only, that one model that gets us to the perfect stride every single time. And when the shoe is tired and worn, we buy the exact same one (usually an updated version with some minor tweaks). Of course we don’t toss its predecessor; it’s just added to the pile of crap in the back of the closet.

We Have Running Gear Ready—At All Times

In the office, at the cube, under the car seat, in the trunk, on the floor—there’s running gear EVERYWHERE. You never know when you might have to grab a few miles away from the computer. You know how your mom always told you to have a designated driver? Be the designated runner—if you’re ever stranded in the middle of nowhere with 10 miles to go until civilization (at least we think it might happen), you always have already worn socks and your backup-to-the-backup shirt. If your co-workers scrunch their faces in disgust at the idea of a lunchtime jaunt, keep your handy gear in a desk drawer or in your car. Just don’t leave the Body Glide out in a public space.

We Hydrate Often

Drink water! It helps you stay alive, hydrated, healthy and functional during those longer runs and races. Neon sports drinks are never out of style either, replenishing electrolytes and salt lost during a good sweat session. Our back seats and trucks are cluttered with half-drank water bottles and questionable concoctions our friends told us we HAD TO TRY. It’s also no coincidence that beer miles are totally trending—runners love beer more than Gatorade. We drool over the easy carbs and calories our favorite brew offers. Guzzling one or five beers after a hard run is just as beneficial (and necessary) as chugging H20 on a daily basis. OK, maybe water is a smidge more important, but don’t underestimate the power of the brew.

We Embrace All Tan Lines

If you’re a female, you have a friend who spends hundreds on hiding awkward tan lines during the summer months. If you’re a female runner, sport bra tans are a mark of pride. Hell yea, I run shirtless in the summer—because I’m a badass. As unflattering as short tan lines can be, we either totally dig them or don’t mind them. It’s not a priority to smother the white patches in bronzer only to make the white whiter and the dark darker the next day during a high-noon lunch run. Time is of the essence, people—running is an unflattering sport if done right, and we don’t seem to have the patience (or the extra time) to worry about pasty body markings. Plus, wristwatch tans are a sure-tell sign of a runner, if you’re in the market for a new training partner.

We Recover Properly After Races, Good or Bad

We’ve all had them—those finish lines where we sulk in a corner and hit “ignore” to all incoming calls wanting to scream, “HOW DID YOU DO?” We’ve also had those races where we’re highly elated crossing the finish line, clocking a sparkly new PR and looking freaking awesome, and we feel invincible enough to pile on miles the following morning. As runners, we know to forgive the legs, lungs and running libido following a poor performance—we are addicts, so there’s always another fix (race) on the horizon, a chance to redeem ourselves. We give ourselves a metaphorical pat on the back, take some time off to recover, drink a few beers and come back refreshed for another round of training. We love to run, hate to rest and suck at forgiveness—but we understand that rest is necessary and forgiveness hurts less than physically punishing our bodies for not delivering on race day.

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