Life hacks have become so ubiquitous that there’s now a blossoming debate about whether they have a place at all in endurance sports, where doing the work and going through the process is probably part of why you started running in the first place.
Running is a journey. It’s not about the destination. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make enjoying that journey a little easier. Think of these as eight tips and tricks for getting out there on your own journey and solving some of the problems along the way.
Shower in your running clothes
After a run, your clothes can be pretty sweaty and even smelly. Instead of throwing them in the laundry bin, though, try jumping right into the shower still dressed (minus the shoes). Then hang up your clothes to dry and finish your shower. Giving a rinse to quick-drying workout allows you to get three or four uses out of a pair of shorts or a shirt before they need a full laundering.
“It sounds gross, but it actually works very well,” says Matt Frazier, author of No Meat Athlete. It also means you can get by with just one running outfit when you’re traveling.
Sleep in your running clothes
“It seems like such a minor thing,” said Frazier, but when getting out the door is an obstacle, eliminating each little thing—including getting dressed—makes starting your run easier. “It’s one less thing to do, one step closer to getting out the door.”
If that sounds too weird, a simpler step is just to completely lay out your running clothes before you go to bed. Anything that means fewer things to think about makes it just a little easier to get going.
Don’t just wear wicking running shirts on hot days
Generally we just throw on our running clothes and head out the door. But on hot days that can be counter-productive.
Doug Hay, who co-hosts a podcast with Frazier on running hacks, actually suggests wearing a cotton shirt instead on a hot day—if you can’t go shirtless. Wicking material is designed to take sweat away from your body, but a cotton shirt holds the sweat and sticks to your body, which can actually make you feel cooler.
To trick your brain and body, you can also stick a wet shirt in the freezer and grab it before your run. And cooling off your head can make you feel colder, even if it doesn’t do much to actually cool you down. Stick ice in your hat or a cold wet cloth on your head.
Pantyhose under your socks
If you get bad blisters, some athletes find putting pantyhose feet on under their socks smooths away the irritating points and decreases the odds of blistering.
Tie key into shoe or into ponytail holder
Carrying a key can also be a necessary annoyance. (After all, you do need to get back in your house or car when you’re done running.) While sticking things in your sports bra is a tried-and-true method for female runners, there are plenty of other places to stash that key too.
If you don’t have pockets, tie the key into your shoelace so you don’t lose it or have to carry it. Or, you can even knot it into your ponytail holder, if you have a particularly thick ponytail.
Get creative with your food
Now that you’re dressed and ready to go, you have to navigate one of the more complicated parts of running: nutrition. But don’t let eating and drinking overwhelm you. Don’t even worry about food on runs shorter than an hour, especially if you’re running first thing in the morning.
If you’re doing a long, long run and like to carry whole foods or fruits—like Frazier and Hay do—you can use a standard hydration vest or pack and pull the hydration bladder out. That’ll create plenty of room to stuff your pack with food and you can carry a handheld water bottle or refill it as you go.
Hay also likes to eat dates on runs for their nutritional value, though he also recommends gummies if you like chews or gels but are looking for something easier to swallow. And some people will mix grapes with chews (frozen grapes on hot days).
Dump salt pills into your water bottle
Hay and Frazier are also big believers in breaking open the salt pills or tablets you might take on long runs and dumping the salt into your water bottle. That way your tongue is able to sense how much salt you’re taking in and give feedback in a regulatory loop.
“We shouldn’t bypass our body’s own feedback mechanism,” said Frazier.
Schedule your run into your day
One of the biggest hacks we all need is a surefire way to fit everything into our day efficiently. Often, getting in a run is the first thing to be sacrificed. To avoid that, schedule it in to your calendar, like a meeting, and set calendar alerts for your upcoming run. Make your run fit in however much time you have—even if that’s only 20 minutes.
And you can multi-task with your runs: Try run commuting with a small backpack and a change of clothes. Schedule low-key running meetings if you have co-workers or colleagues who also want to get in some exercise. Or make your runs another kind of family time with your significant other, kids, or dog. Just getting it done, however you can, is the biggest hack of all.