10 Superhero Hacks To Optimize Your Run

We all need to feel like superheroes sometimes! Use these tips to unleash the superhero in you and get the most out of your run. Note: The Flash gets a pass for this list. Just running makes you The Flash, these are bonus superhero hacks to optimize your run!

Pre-run Pump Up (The Incredible Hulk)

Though endurance athletes are usually associated with a gentler temperament than Bruce Banner’s raging alter-ego transformation (“Runner smash!” is kinda hard to picture), going beast mode a little before a run can be hugely beneficial. There are some good exercises in my last blog post, and I find that even a set of five deadlifts and ten pushups really gets my heart going and my muscles prepped for higher intensity.

Smile! (Superman)

Channel a little Christopher Reeve on your next run and give people a smile! Superman is a hero for the people, and not only will being outwardly pleasant on your run uplift your community, it might just improve your performance as an athlete, and maximize the psychological benefits of running. Smiling uses less muscles than frowning, and affects the articulation of your jaw and neck in a way that makes stress-breathing less likely. Smiling and happiness can also be a two way street, that is, studies show that the very act of smiling can make you happier!

Focus On Natural Beauty (Poison Ivy)

Two important points here. First, looking at nature improves directed attention and is more restorative. Exercise your ability to choose what you pay attention to if you’re running on the road, and you’ll be happier and function better. I’m not saying don’t pay attention to traffic, just to only pay it as much attention as you need to, in order to stay safe, and look at the trees, flowers, clouds, and wildlife in order to enjoy yourself. Second, literally think of Poison Ivy and the particular plant she’s named for. She might be a villain, but you should totally dodge like a superhero if your spidey senses tingle, and lurking just ahead lies this nefarious shiny three-leaved plant that threatens to send every runner to the store to pick up a tube of Tecnu.

Prehydrate (Aquaman)

During a run, drinking more than the amount needed to quench thirst is not helpful, and marathoners will finish a race nearly 10% dehydrated and glide along at the same pace they started at. However, studies show that starting a run dehydrated is not good for performance. Matt Fitzgerald recommends stopping fluid intake one hour before the start of a race; however I will often drink a cup of water at the start of preparing for a run, and then take off ten minutes later when I’m done getting ready. Besides just not being all that organized, I do this because I’m really focused on maximizing my mental capacity when the run is over and transitioning to creative work. If the run isn’t going to be much longer than an hour, I don’t bring water. For longer runs, I’ll throw a water bottle into my Camelbak Mule, and for really long runs I’ll use the hydration pack.

Wear A Heart Rate Monitor (Iron Man)

I started using a heart rate monitor (Polar FT-1), and I realized immediately that I should have been using one for years. Going for a run at a medium pace every day is great for fat loss, but to improve running performance, you’ll want to run at high intensity some of the time and at an easy pace during other runs. For your low intensity runs, a heart rate monitor can help rein you in before you push too hard, which helps you achieve your training goals. Furthermore, when you stay under your lactate threshold, you feel like you’ve been running with help from the Iron Man suit because your willpower isn’t drained and you can change gears extremely smoothly.

“A lot of the research came from ‘what are the performance athletes really doing?’ and what they’re really doing is running easy on their easy days and hard on their hard days.” Sally Edwards1

Be Ready With Audio (Abigail Whistler)

If you’ve seen Blade 3: Trinity, you’ve seen Abigail Whistler get into the zone with music. Good music makes me absolutely ecstatic when I run, and moreover, motivates me to run when I might not otherwise be in the mood. If you listen to your current favorite tracks or channels through a streaming service, have a playlist that you can switch to quickly if you run out of reach of a cell tower. I use SoundCloud, because if you like a track, it gets added to the top of a ‘likes’ playlist (here’s mine, don’t judge) so you get your latest jams right away, and I use the native iOS music app for offline jams. In addition, you don’t have to stop learning and enjoying stories when you go for a run! Podcasts and audiobooks are more popular than ever as we head towards a more mobile and intellectual lifestyle.

Modular Routes (Elastigirl)

Stay flexible by knowing your local loops. I have a 3 mile trail/road loop, a 6 mile road loop, a 9 mile road loop, and a 12 mile trail loop, and depending on how I feel, I know how to mix and match them. So if I want a 7.5 mile trail/road loop, I turn right onto Midland Road instead of staying straight on Turkey Lane, and if I want an 11.5 mile trail/road loop, I’ll keep on towards Snake Hill Road after the trail portion. Or if the 9 mile road loop was overambitious, I can turn left on West Neck Road instead of right to cut the distance down by 2 miles. Understanding your loops in a modular fashion can help you stretch your runs out when you want to and stretch out a good training phase by not overdoing it.

Use Strava (The X-Men)

Get your run data and stay connected with your team of mutant superheroes with a social GPS app called Strava. Runners still experience the intrinsic benefits of endorphins just by going for a run, but don’t necessarily get the benefit of dopamine, which is rooted in novelty and pattern recognition. We don’t usually run down deer these days, which is a mentally challenging task and leads hunters in new directions, generally. Cheeseburgers don’t tend to run off into the woods. Optimize your neurochemistry with the dopamine boost from sharing your run over social media. Why you might want to use Strava, in particular, is that it’s simple and gives the data you expect, and it has a built-in social component. Sharing to Facebook and/or Twitter is just two taps, and you can also give Kudos and leave a comment on someone’s run. Compartmentalize your social media sharing, because not everyone is going to want to see every one of your runs, unless you’re on a real fitness quest, but your running friends certainly will, and if you don’t have any, you can find local runners by looking at the top times by runners of your gender and in your age range in the Segments section. Segments are segments (surprise) of road or trail that your time is recorded automatically on if you run them. Logging your run is even more fun if you’re a photographer, as you can add images to the run report.

Be Ready For Any Conditions (Storm)

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. Unofficial US Post Office Motto

Runners are all superheroes, and this means that we face a range of challenges on a regular basis. It’s easy to stick to your training schedule when it’s sunny and 73*F, but when it rains, when it snows, when it’s hot or cold, or when you’re so busy that your afternoon run gets pushed back to midnight, you need to be set to kick butt no matter what. This means being mentally tough enough to face any conditions (within reason, stay safe folks), and it also means that you need to be ready with the right gear, so that getting ready never takes so long that you lose motivation. More on that in the next tip.

Gear Up (Batman)

We saw Batman’s martial arts training in Batman Begins, but everyone knows that Batman would really just be Bat-Dude without his gear. Everyone has their preferences, so I’ll just say what I use, and mention that it’s all laid out in specific places in my room so that I can be ready for a run within ten minutes at any time.

  • Tech tops and shorts
  • Light long-sleeved shirts and pants
  • Light fleece tops and sweatpants
  • Athletic ankle socks and light wool socks
  • Baseball cap for rain, fleece hat for cold
  • Fleece neck warmer
  • Tech gloves
  • Headlamp for night runs
  • Phone and headphones
  • Backpack, and a plastic bag for the phone in case it rains
  • Headband, to keep headphones dry
  • Water bottle or hydration pack, depending on distance
  • Vaseline to prevent chafing of the thighs, and lower back if carrying water

And, of course, shoes! Sometimes, at least. I run about half my miles barefoot. Unless it’s a short run, I’ll usually put my shoes in my backpack either ‘just in case’ or to extend my run beyond when my pads wear out. This is one of the reasons I prioritize minimalism and a light-weight pair of shoes. Everyone is different, though, and you should absolutely be wearing the best shoes for you! Get the best deal on shoes by using Fastblr, which searches multiple retailers for you to get you the best price on some sweet kicks. My friend Tom only just found out about Fastblr, and his wife could have saved $60 on the exact pair of Brooks she bought from another source. Don’t be in the dark about great deals! See the light and shop through Fastblr, and stay tuned, as they’re expanding to all types of athletic gear in the near future! You’ll be notified of new posts and major site updates when you hit the subscribe button, and let us know what some of your favorite running hacks are in the comments below!

1Don Freeman (Producer). (2015, July 3). Ultra running — a Retrospective Look with Sally Edwards [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://traffic.libsyn.com/trailrunnernation/Sally_Take_2.1.mp3

Originally published at www.fastblr.com on August 18, 2015.