Athlete running road silhouette

I haven’t been one to get in to the whole hacking craze, and these days you see articles with hacks for just about anything.

Hacks for getting through airport security. Hacks for learning how to play guitar. Hacks for how to open a can of beer. Hacks for hacking.

I’d say there are more sites devoted to hacking your life than for living it.

I recently saw an old post from Rich Roll pop back up on my newsfeed about why we should quit focusing on hacking, and start enjoying the ride. He says that a lot of the benefits and growth come through the process, so by hacking up that process, you’re losing those benefits.

I completely agree.


At the same time, there are certain tricks that are simply smart choices. Growth comes through struggle and pushing your limits, but your limits expand quicker when you begin removing obstacles.

That’s what this list is about. It’s not about hacking your training in an effort to cheat or bypass the work. It’s about removing obstacles and taking advantage of smart training. After all, that’s what this entire year is all about.

8 Hacks for Runners

1) Run in the morning, before life gets in the way: In the same day, I heard both of these excuses from two different runners,

“I missed last night’s run because I had to work late and was too tired when I got home,” and

“I couldn’t run because the kids had a basketball game, and I needed to feed them dinner once it was done.”

Sound familiar? If those don’t, I bet you can come up with a dozen excuses that would.

And I get it. Life gets in the way all the time. It happens to everyone. So why not take care of the important things before it does?

Getting up early is tough (especially when your wife puts flannel sheets on the bed), but not impossible. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Just ask Jeff from The 5AM Miracle Podcast. He gets up every day at an hour most of us never see except on race morning, and knocks out more important things than most of us do before lunch. Including his run.

Just to confirm, I asked him via Twitter. Here’s what he said,


Thanks for rubbing it in, Jeff.

Eliminate the obstacles life throws at you every day by getting the run in early.

2) Lay out your clothes the night before: If you’re running in the morning, this is especially important. 

This quick and easy step can go a long way mentally when you’re fighting just to get out of bed. I’ve even heard of runners sleeping in their running clothes, so they are literally dressed and ready as soon as their feet hit the floor.

If you share a room with someone, setting out your clothes is also just just a nice thing to do. Just because you’re getting up early doesn’t mean they have to.

3) Structure your run around the time you have available: Too often I hear of runners who:

  1. Don’t end up running because they only have 20 minutes, or
  2. Run the same type of run for 20 minutes as they would have if they had 40 minutes

When you’re crunched for time, focus on the best bang for your buck.

Using the example above with only 20 minutes, do one of the following:

  • 5 minute warm-up, 10 minutes of hill repeats, 5 minute cool-down
  • 5 minute warm-up, 10 minute progression run, 5 minute cool-down

If you have more time, focus on endurance, base building, and recovery.

Maximize your gains by structuring the run around what you have available.

Now, I have to point out a massive asterisks here. You should never get caught in the trap of running similar workouts all the time. If you’re only willing to commit 20 minutes every single day, then the last thing you’d want to do is run hills every single day. Mixing up the types of workouts (easy, speed, long, etc.) is very important to staying healthy and getting stronger.

4) Follow a training plan: Want to remove all the guessing and time wasted planning a workout? Follow a training plan. It’s that simple.

Sometimes just being told what to do and having an expectation of actually doing it is all a runner needs to get their butt out the door.

Even better is to have a coach, but a dedicated training plan is a good place to start.

5) Shower in your running clothes: At least for the first minute or two of your shower.

Running clothes get stinky quick. Just ask my wife. But that doesn’t mean you have to wash them after every use.

I learned this trick from Matt Frazier. Here’s what he suggests: Jump in the shower with your clothes on, give them a good rinse, and hang dry for the next day’s run. You can do this one or two times before throwing them in for a proper cleaning.

This not only cuts down on the pile of dirty clothes, but it also means you don’t need to own as many running outfits as you might think.

6) Buy multiple shoes at a time: Running shoes come and running shoes go. If you have a shoe you like, especially when they’re on sale, snatch up a few pairs at the same time. Updates and new versions aren’t always going to work for your needs.

If you hear a style or line is going away, you can usually find them for cheap. I purchased three pairs of the original Salomon Sense Mantras just before the new version came out for 45% off. Cha-ching!

7) Run in a variety of running shoes: At the same time, it’s good for your body and training to swap out the shoes you wear. Rotating through several different pairs of shoes not only lengthens the life of each pair, but helps avoid repetitive strain injuries.

8) Don’t bother with food/water unless you’re running for more than an hour: Before a run, I often stress over making sure I have all the water and fuel I need to get me through. In reality, though, we really don’t need anything unless we’re out for longer than an hour.

Just make sure to hydrate and refuel within 15 or 20 minutes of your run for best recovery.

Don’t Be a Hack

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not suggesting you take short-cuts that end up hurting you as a runner.

Making these hacks, or smart training choices is all about removing obstacles and being the most efficient runner you can be.

Don’t be a hack. Be a smart runner.

What are you favorite running hacks?

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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4 thoughts on “The 8 Running Hacks of Smart Runners

  1. The showering in clothes thing I had to get used to quickly to avoid making the laundromat a second home. I don’t exactly have the money for a different running outfit for every day of the week, with backups for extreme temp and rain.

  2. Some might think it’s gross, but washing your shorts in the shower with you is totally viable for 1-2 uses. I have way more shirts than shorts, so it cuts my laundry in half.

  3. Great list of tips. I’m gonna try # 5 – at least until my wife says ‘what in Hell are you doing?’ Thanks

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