fitness

'I've run 5 times a week for 10 years. Here are the hacks that keep me going.'

A number of weeks ago, I shared some of my top tips to make running easier.

It was fun: I love running, and it's cool to connect with others who do too (and hopefully bring some others around to our side!) 

In that article, I shared some of the mental gymnastics and small details I do every day to keep me motivated to head out the door, but there was no room to share the running hacks I have nailed down to a fine art courtesy of apps, tools and complementary exercises. 

Watch: The star signs, exercising. Post continues below video.


Video via Mamamia.

These were some of the most common questions I received after my first story went live, so yep, your weird 'runs 4 fun' friend is back, and this time I'm here with a list of those things I use to make things easier/more interesting. 

From how to get coach-guided runs without paying a fortune to the simple podcast trick that'll keep you looking forward to the next time you lace up your shoes, here are my go-tos. And because I'm a cheapskate, they're pretty much all free, so you've got nothing to lose:

The Nike Run Club app.

When I was first starting out, and a few times over the years when I've needed a real motivation boost, the Nike Run Club app was a godsend.

The app does all the tracking of other apps you might have heard of (Strava, RunKeeper etc) and can also sync data from fitness devices like an Apple Watch, but its best feature is the guided runs.

During these, a Nike Coach speaks to you throughout a set run - say 35 minutes outdoors, a treadmill run or a 'don't wanna run run' - offering cues, reminders and motivation to help make your run easier (and fun!)

Personally, I really enjoy being told I'm doing a great job by an actual professional... even if I'm really not. Image: Nike Run Club. 

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They're really helpful for reminding you to body scan throughout, especially at the beginning of your running journey: the coaches may check in on your posture, help you keep a steady pace and ensure you're not exploding out of the blocks too fast.

Most of the time, they're short, snappy check-ins that feel a little like your helpful mate patting you on the back.

The app also syncs up with your Apple Music or Spotify, so when they're done yarning in your ear, you can go back to listening to your playlist.

And best of all, it's totally free. 

A training program.

Most of the time I just run because I like it and it's good for me, but every now and again I like to work to a program to keep things fresh and give myself a goal to work towards.

But years ago, I learned the hard way that Googling a running training plan is... overwhelming. There is so much advice and so many programs out there, and honestly it's hard to know where to start. 

Which is why I want to let you in on my secret...

These free, easy to follow 10km training programs from Bupa UK.

Don't ask me how I came across them, because I genuinely cannot remember, but they have served me well so. many. times. over the years.

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Listen: The Quicky on how to become a run, without breaking your body. Post continues below audio.

There are beginner, intermediate and advanced guides, as well as 5km plans and walk-to-run plans, depending on your preference. 

I usually print it off (I know, old school) and cross it off as I go, or use it as the template for creating my own plan that switches up the suggested days to fit around my routine.

Oh, and I mostly ignore the suggested warm-up/cool-down/effort scales on the landing page I've linked above and just work to the time and distances on the actual plan - so don't worry too much about wrapping your head around all the jargon. 

BPM playlists.

Research shows music, especially high-tempo music, can boost workout performance, which is probably a reason why spin classes are obnoxiously loud and... bassy.

Spotify (and other music apps, I'm sure) have ready-made running playlists to choose from if you're looking for some admin-free bangers to run to, but if you want to create your own, you might want to look into what songs match your pace. 

So many options, but 90s pop run is full of BANGERS. Image: Spotify. 

I don't know what it is about this, but I'm kind of obsessed with figuring out a song's bpm, and if it fits with my pace, I get really excited. Only now that I've typed that out do I realise that is... weird.

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For reasons that I am definitely not intelligent enough to understand, let alone explain, your movement can sync up with the rhythm of sounds you might hear, so playing certain songs can see you lowering or speeding up your pace without you really realising it. 

If you're interested, Jog.fm is really helpful for telling you what songs fit with your personal per kilometre pace. And once you know what bpm you're looking for, songbpm.com can tell you if pretty much any song fits.

Happy playlisting!

A run-only podcast.

If you're more of a podcast person, then my podcast hack might help get you excited to head out for your run.

Running is the only time I listen to my very favourite podcast, so if I don't run, I don't get to listen.

This means my run is not just exercise: it's also my guaranteed pod time, a chance for me to spend time with some of my favourite people while also being distracted from my heavy breathing.

A win-win.

Don't just run.

I've always incorporated some form of strength and conditioning work into my routine to ensure my muscles and joints are strong enough to withstand the running, which is pretty taxing.

Add body weight workouts, pilates and stretching into your weekly routine and I'm sure you'll notice the differences in your running.

I used to strength-train at the gym, but quit for good in March 2020 and have never felt better, so if you're not a gym-goer (or uh, stuck at home because you know... pandemic), don't worry. I've got you.

My most frequented app is Nike Training Club, another free app from Nike with HEAPS of workouts. You can build a plan, choose exercises based on what (if any) equipment you have to hand or focus on specific muscle groups. There's everything from a quick five-minute plank finisher to 10-minute HIIT to full 45-minute circuits that will get you very sweaty.

The best part is that each exercise is demonstrated by a Nike trainer, so you can follow along without needing to pause to Google 'what is an inchworm?'

Feeling lazy? There are five minute options. Image: Nike Training Club. 

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Elsewhere, I am a big fan of friend-of-Mamamia Chloe from Go Chlo Pilates and enjoy weekly classes via her On Demand platform, but Chlo also has a bunch of taster classes that you can access for free on her YouTube channel. They'll have you swearing your head off - in a good way.

Plus, do this! Often! Raise those calves!

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My colleague Gemma also wrote an article a while ago with a number of free YouTube workouts she does on the reg, and it's been a good source of inspo for me when I'm looking to try something new. Check out her suggestions here.

Gameify everything.

Humans are simple creatures, and we thrive on incentives and competition, which is why gameifying your workout can be a great way to push yourself.

There are so many apps that provide you with achievement badges, etc. as you go, and it's hard not to get sucked into the game of it all.

This part might be dependent on how you work: I don't really like competing with others, so stick to apps that only have me working against myself, but others thrive off trying to beat their mates.

I bloody love a virtual trophy, okay. Image: Nike Training Club/Apple Watch Fitness.

The Nike Run Club app does both: it lets you join competitions and keeps track of your achievements - like weekly streaks and fastest kilometres. And the Nike Training app celebrates milestones of one-100 workouts completed and X amount of minutes ticked off.

With a Strava subscription, you can see how your times compare to others who complete the same courses as you and on RunKeeper you can set your own goals and hit targets.

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If you want to feel like you're actually IN a game, there's Zombies, Run!, a free app where you run away from zombies and unlock 'missions' as you go along. I'm an absolute wuss, but it's pretty fun and works anywhere - even on the treadmill.

Stop carrying your phone.

Ok, this goes against much of the above advice involving apps but hear me out. 

You can still bring your phone with you for music, tracking and safety purposes, but I'm advocating for the extremely high-tech invention of pockets.

POCKETS RULE.

For the best part of eight+ years, I ran with my phone in my hand. 

It was mostly out of habit but also because pocket tights weren't a common thing yet and I didn't have a way to listen to music or pods without it until I upgraded from a FitBit to an Apple Watch in 2020. 

(I would include an Apple Watch as a hack, because I really do consider mine a close personal friend, but I don't want anyone thinking they need to spend $600 on an accessory to be a runner - you really, really don't!)

Now I almost always leave my phone at home, but if you must have it with you, invest in leggings or shorts with a pocket big enough to hold it.

There are a few benefits to being phone free: firstly, it drastically cuts down any distractions. Only those with iron will are able to resist checking a notification that pings in their hand.

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Secondly, gripping anything in your hand limits the natural movement of your arm - it's just not as efficient or comfortable.

Mindfully and physically, things feel so much better when your hands are free.

And that's pretty much it for apps and tools. It's a bit of trial-and-error to figure out the routines and interfaces that work best for you, but I hope this gives you a good basis to start. 

Happy running!

Read more: "I've run 5 times a week for 10 years. Here are my super simple tips to make it easier."

Chelsea McLaughlin is Mamamia's Senior Entertainment Writer. For more pop culture takes, sarcasm and... cat content, you can follow her on Instagram.

Feature image: Supplied.

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