8 Amazing Hacks and Tips No Marathoner Can Live Without

Buzzfeed has done it again, compiling an excellent list of hacks every runner needs to know about. And we’ve added our two cents in the form of additional tips that will no doubt come in handy for any serious runner or marathoner.

Hack #1 Drink a banana smoothie to help prevent muscle cramps

Muscle cramps can be caused by a multitude of factors, from dehydration and not stretching enough to overexertion and even poor blood circulation. Another big culprit is low potassium levels, also known as hypokalemia.

During a marathon (or any kind of strenuous exercise), one of the electrolytes your body depletes through sweat is potassium. Bananas, it turns out, are the perfect remedy due to their high potassium content. Replenishing your potassium, or keeping levels up, also helps with other aspects for marathoners, as it converts glucose into glycogen (which fuels your running) and it removes carbon dioxide from the lungs.​

Extra tip: If you're searching for the perfect recipe, check out the Anti-Cramp Funky Monkey Smoothie for a delicious way to stave off those charley horses. Alternatively, if you hate bananas, try this concoction: 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (which also has high levels of potassium) with 1 teaspoon of honey in warm water, and drink up!

Hack #2 Drink coffee to increase your endurance

This tip comes down to a little “drug” known as caffeine. Caffeine is believed to enhance performance in endurance sports, according to research from Rice University.

When the starch called glycogen, one of the body’s fuels, runs out, exhaustion sets in, but as long as glycogen levels are maintained, the muscles start using fat as their fuel. Caffeine helps slow glycogen depletion by mobilizing fat stores, so the body uses more fat as its fuel. The result is that you’re able to run longer, harder and faster.

Extra tip: Don’t have any caffeine 3 or 4 days before the marathon, and drink coffee 3 or 4 hours before the race. Also, drink it in moderation, as caffeine can also have some pretty nasty side effects.

Hack #3 Use your shoelaces to hold your keys

This is a great idea! Experienced runners recommend removing the shoelace from the last hole, threading the key on, then running it through the hole again, tying a triple knot and tucking the key into the laces so it doesn’t flop around.​

Extra tip: There are other free ways you can stash your key on you!

  • Twist it onto a hair band and wear it on your wrist
  • Connect a key chain with the key to your bra strap
  • Use a heavy duty safety pin and pin it inside your clothes
  • If you're listening to music and wearing an armband, tuck the key into the pouch
  • Tie it to the drawstring on your shorts
  • Put it on a shoelace and wear it as a necklace, and slip it around to your back for more comfort
  • Wear some special running or workout gear, most of which comes with a zippered pocket incorporated into the design

If, however, you're willing to spend some cold hard cash to keep your key (and maybe your other belongings) safe, you might want to invest in a magnetic Buddy Pouch, a handy zipper sweatband wristband, a shoe pouch, a SPIbelt or even a magnetic keycase so you can stash your key under your car. 

Hack #4 Make a custom phone holder with a cool sock, scissors, and an iPod/iPhone

This is a very easy 3-step process: First you fold the sock, making sure your device of choice fits into the fold.​ Then you cut off the end of the sock. Next you pull half of the sock inside, and insert your iPod/iPhone and... Voila! You can now take your phone/music with you!

DIY iPhone holder 1
DIY iPhone Holder 2

Extra tip: If you’re averse to the idea of wearing a tube sock on your arm but still want an easy and inexpensive way to fashion an armband, well, there’s definitely more than one way to skin a cat! Here are three more ideas.

  • If you have a plastic placemat, scissors, a pencil, glue and two ponytail holders, then Gabriel's tutorial will teach you how to make the perfect sock-free armband.
  • If you have an old t-shirt, scissors, a ruler, some Velcro, a needle and thread, then check out this awesome how-to from Savannah and Casey.
  • And if you’re feeling crafty, you don’t want to miss Melissa's great explanation of how she makes an armband that not only looks good, but also lets you access the touchscreen. All you need is some fabric and vinyl, elastic, double fold bias tape and a ruler.

Hack #5 Create a grip for your water bottle with a sock

Again, it doesn't get much easier than this, which is why we love the idea. You just grab another tube sock, and insert the water bottle. Fold the end back down, put your hand inside, and you and the bottle basically become one. 

DIY Water Bottle Holder

Extra tip: If you’re not feeling the sock-water-bottle-holder, fear not! There are several other DIY options for taking your bottle on the go.

  • Let Kelsea teach you how to make a bottle holder with just a skinny bike tube.
  • Lisa does it with a koozie, a marker and some scissors—pretty darn easy.
  • Another very simple idea is to buy a bottle with a handle the next time you’re at the supermarket (think maple syrup…) and then use that when you run.

Hack #6 Trick your body into running faster by focusing on an object in your path (you’ll reach the object faster and feel less tired)

According to an article in The Atlantic, focusing on something in the distance, like a tree or a sign, can make distances feel shorter. That makes you move more quickly and feel like you’re not working as hard. This is technically known as “attention narrowing”.

Extra tip: That’s not the only trick runners can play on their minds. According to Men’s Health, “Your mind is actually the culprit behind your tiring body… Your brain is hardwired to slow you down and keep some energy in reserve… [but] there are simple training tactics you can use to deceive your brain.” This includes

  • Breaking up the total distance into intervals, with a warm-up, sprints, fast repetitions, etc. That way it won’t seem like you're running as far, and your body will be able to work harder than if you were just running the same distance at a steady pace.
  • Alternating sprinting with body-weight training between sets. That way you’re not constantly thinking about the next sprint, and when it’s time for the next one, “your mind will consider it a brand-new workout”, enabling you to work harder.

Hack #7 Use a tennis ball to massage your foot, and stick it in the freezer first for added relief

This is an awesome hack, as it will refresh your tired feet and the pressure will feel amazing on them. It will also loosen your hamstrings, and if you suffer from plantar fasciitis, this will provide a lot of relief. Just be prepared to explain why you have all those tennis balls in the freezer!​

Extra tip: Did you know that tennis balls can provide relief to several other parts of the body? Prevention magazine has a fantastic article with easy exercises for all kinds of problems, from tight thighs and sore hips to stiff knees and tense shoulders. All you need are some tennis balls.

Hack #8 Get out there and run!

This is a great “hack”, because the only way to achieve your dream of running a marathon or setting a new personal record is to get out there and run! It’s easy to sit on the couch, watch Netflix and eat gummy bears, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing – taking action.​

Extra tip: You will have your own reasons for running a marathon, whether it’s because you love to run, how you stay in shape, or a personal goal you set. But just in case you find your motivation wavering, check out this list of 101 Reasons to Run a Marathon. We bet many of them will resonate with you and inspire you to get moving.