3 Simple Tweaks That Can Make This Weekend’s Long Run Easier


I first got the idea for this post a few months ago as I was walking through the GEICO corporate offices for my weekly Toastmasters meeting and saw this sign:


I’m not sure if the HR rep who walks me to my meetings was pulling my leg (I’m not a GEICO employee and can’t be in the building without an escort), but according to her those signs were fastened to almost every common area door in that building to prevent people from running into each other or worse – bonking people on the other side of the door in the face.

One little easy, simple change – or tweak – apparently has made a huge difference in the daily lives of countless GEICO employees. In my own little fantasy world, those signs prevented countless black eyes, bruised heads and bloody noses.

The takeaway – for me at least – was that making a simple change could drastically change a routine or process, so naturally I thought of quick changes to make my running easier, stronger and better.

Here are some tweaks to my runs I’ve picked over the years:

“Chin Up!” aren’t just words of encouragement

When I ran the Columbus Marathon a couple of years ago, they had a really good guest blogging series where a handful of runners wrote about their experiences. I couldn’t find the posts on their current website, nor could I find an archive, but I remember one runner giving the sage advice to lift your chin up as you run.

It sounds so simple, but lifting your chin up and slightly tilting your head back opens up your airways and makes it much easier to breathe and take deeper breaths. The next time you’re on a long run and you feel fatigued and taking short breaths, try lifting your chin up and focus on your breathing. Once you get your breathing under control, you’ll find that you have a little more in the tank than you thought you did.

Focus on pulling imaginary air levers

This was a trick I picked up from my high school cross country coach. While at first I thought this was only a trick to focus your attention something other than the pain of running, it turns out this can also improve your running. Properly moving your arms makes running easier and more efficient. 

You don’t want to oversell this one – anyone you run by will laugh at you if they think you’re pretending to pull levers – but once you get a handle (no pun intended) on proper arm movement, it becomes pretty easy to focus on  “pulling” imaginary levers as you move your arms back and forth.

Create a running mantra

I guess on some levels I’ve always done this even before I knew what I was actually doing. Back in my high school cross country days, I would murmur things like “you got this”  or “let’s go!” over and over to help push me through the final portion of races or practices. It all sort of clicked for me when I read about Caballo Blanco telling Christopher MacDougall about his own mantra in Born to Run.

While he never officially made mention of it being a mantra, Blanco’s “easy, light, smooth, fast” sounds like it qualifies to me. Since I first read that book, I’ve been guilty of repeating that phrase several times over toward the end of longer runs and focusing on those words and applying them to my run has certainly made things easier for me.

Focusing and harnessing the power of your mantra is key here. Repeating over and over will help you bring focus to what you’re saying, but it has to be something applicable to you and your situation.

For more information coming up with your own running mantra, check out Doug’s eBook over at Rock Creek Runner. It’s a virtual who’s who of the running blog world talking about how mantras help them run.

I’ve applied these three tweaks from time to time on my runs, but there are countless others I’d like to try. What are some tweaks you’ve made to improve your running?



  1. This is some great advice. I’m going to try the “chin up” technique tomorrow in my 10k. A somewhat recent tweak I’ve made is to remember to keep my head up, instead of looking down at the ground. It has made a difference! I naturally run better when I’m looking ahead instead of at my feet.

  2. You do Toastmasters? I’ve been told I should join, that’s awesome! And as a yoga teacher–I always try to have a running mantra! Well-written post. Thank you!

    • Yep, I’m a Toastmaster!

      I was a little skeptical at first, but it has turned out to be a great way to hone my public speaking. I get up in front of audiences from time to time for my day job, so it’s good practice. I’d recommend it going for a session or two even if you’re already comfortable speaking in front of crowds.

      My wife is a yogi/yoga teacher as well and she loves the idea of having a running mantra too!

  3. Okay, so when I saw the sign “Use this door” in your post & you mentioned that you were at the GEICO headquarters, I thought is was a joke (the black rectangle looks like a little door for the lizard!).
    On another note, I love the tip on keeping your chin up! I sometimes come back from a run & my back is hurting because I had poor posture while running. That will be easy to remember! Someone also told me to run as if I was carrying a bucket of water in front of me.

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