You might log most of your miles in the park, on the trail, or at the gym. But the environment in which you reside, even when you’re not running, matters to your injury risk, performance, and overall well being. Here are 18 household items to get rid of to aid you in your question for a happy, healthy running life - and five others you should be sure to keep around.
1/ Your worn-down running shoes
After regular use - one common rule of thumb is 300 to 400 miles - your shoes become less supportive. This stresses the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, the tough band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, says Dr Colleen Brough, director of the Columbia RunLab and assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. You can donate your old pairs to charity shops and local running programmes.
2/ Cotton socks
What goes inside those trainers also plays an important role in foot health, says Dr John Gallucci, president and CEO of JAG Physical Therapy in New Jersey. Cotton traps moisture, making it easier for blisters to form. So toss any old cotton socks you still have and replace them with synthetic, moisture-wicking materials.
3/ Broken devices
Broken devices The decade-old stopwatch that won’t start. The GPS watch that no longer picks up satellites. They’re not doing you any good sitting on the top shelf of your wardrobe or cluttering up your garage, says distance running coach Tim Bradley. See if you can repair them and either use them or give them to a running buddy - if not, find a place to recycle them through Recycle Now.
4/ Ab crunch gadgets
OK, fine, the six-packs in the adverts tempted you. But there are far better ways to work your core at home - planks, side planks and Pilates moves like the Hundred, just to name a few, Brough says.
5/ Race shirts you don’t wear
Nip this problem in the bud, says Nancy Haworth, a runner and a professional organiser from North Carolina. As soon as you hit the expo or get your goody bag home, try on the shirt for fit and size. If you don’t think you’ll wear it often, donate it to charity right away. (If you’re both sentimental and crafty, you can turn old race shirts into a memory quilt, Haworth suggests.)
6/ Swag bags
And about those bags - some are reusable drawstring varieties. Still, you probably have a far higher-quality gym bag, Haworth points out. Stuff clothing you’re giving away inside them and donate the whole package.
7/ Other extra clothing
How many running outfits do you wear between laundry days? Now count how many populate your wardrobe or drawers. Odds are the second number’s far higher than the first, Haworth says. Pare down to the amount you really need for each season, and donate or discard the rest - starting with those that are stained, torn, permanently smelly or just plain uncomfortable.
8/ Old water bottles
Many runners wind up with a stash of not-quite-right vessels - some that leak, some that are impossible to clean, others that don’t fit in the holder on the treadmill. Do a bottle inventory: gather them all in one place, pick a few favourites, and recycle or discard the rest, Haworth recommends. Keep an extra one to freeze and run under your feet to ease plantar fascia pain, Brough advises.
9/ Cheap sunglasses
You need to protect your eyes from damage - check the label for confirmation they block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Even better: sunglasses with changeable lenses, including a clear or light pair that keep debris out of your eyes even when it’s dark or cloudy, says coach Mike Norman.
10/ Expired food
Foodborne illness can do a number on your gut and knock you off your training plan. Once a month, scan your fridge for food that’s smelly, mouldy or otherwise past its prime. Do the same in your pantry at least yearly. Even store cupboard goods like beans, rice and spices have an expiration date, says Allison Parker, a runner and licensed dietitian. Replenish your cabinet with healthy staples like brown rice, whole grain pasta, canned or dried beans, nuts and seeds. If, like many people, you do a weekly shop, Parker recommends buying fresh produce for meals at the beginning of the week and frozen for later. It’s almost as nutritious and lasts longer.
11/ Extra-large serving dishes, bowls, or cups
Runger is real - and the bigger the container you eat out of, the more likely you are to overserve yourself, Parker says. Trade oversized tableware for more modest-sized plates and small bowls, and measure portions of foods like rice, pasta, peanut butter and ice cream using measuring cups and spoons. You’ll eat the right amount, and when it’s served in a smaller dish or bowl, it seems more satisfying, she says.
12/ Junk food
Consider what your triggers are. For Parker, it’s crisps and biscuits: “If either are in the apartment, I’m definitely grabbing those over the carrot sticks and apple slices,” she says. “Sometimes it’s best to just not have those items in the house to eliminate temptation.” And pour out the pop. Fizzy drinks add nothing but empty calories to your diet.
13/ Old cutting boards
Look for cracks or chunks missing, especially on boards used for both meat and veg. Bacteria can hide out in those crevices, making you sick. Invest in a few high-quality boards and use some for fruits and veggies only and others for meat, Parker says. Also on the toss list? Subpar appliances, like old toasters or dying blenders, which aren’t functioning properly.
14/ Years-old reusable containers
Parker likes having glass jars and high-quality Tupperware handy to make prepping a week of healthy meals easier. But ditch those that are cracked or have morphed in shape or colour over time. And never nuke foods in plastic that isn’t marked microwave-safe. You risk exposure to potentially toxic chemicals, such as BPA and melamine.
15/ The TV in your bedroom
A good night’s sleep is critical to your recovery and overall health, Bradley says. TVs - or really, any backlit electronic devices - interrupt it by keeping your brain buzzing and emitting blue light that supresses the sleep hormone melatonin.
16/ Saggy old mattress
The mattress you crashed on when you first moved in might place extra strain on your spine, affecting range of motion or causing pain that may interfere with your running performance, Norman says. A high-quality, supportive mattress helps you slumber more soundly, so you awake refreshed and in proper alignment. The average mattress lasts seven to 10 years, Gallucci says.
17/ Unsupportive family members
You probably can’t kick out your spouse, parents or kids just because they hate on your running habit. Still, it’s important to recognize and neutralise their influence so it doesn’t drive you off track, Bradley says. Try explaining your deeper motivations - to stay healthy so you’re around longer, to build confidence you’ll use to succeed in other areas of your life - and invite them to come join you at a group run or cheer you on at a race. (Showing interest in their passions in return wouldn’t hurt, either.)
Household items to keep
1/ Anything to get you eating your veg
A roasting tin for roasting vegetables is simple and brings out their full flavour, Parker says. Save clean-up time by lining each pan with foil brushed with olive oil. And hang onto to any gadgets that make vegetables simpler or more appealing - for instance, a spiraliser to create noodle shapes with your vegetables.
2/ A full-length mirror
Use it to check your form while running on the treadmill or during a single-leg squat test. Check for knees that drift inward or a pelvis that drops, Brough says. If you spot them, work on correcting your form and strengthening your hips.
3/ Wardrobe organisers
A designated bin, basket or drawer for your running gear can make heading out for your workout far simpler. For small items like socks, shorts and tank tops, Haworth recommends over-the-door shoe organisers.
4/ Foam roller and a stretching mat
Keep this combo close to where you work or watch TV, so you don’t forget to take breaks for flexibility and mobility. And pair them with a timer or app on your phone that reminds you to get up and move on a regular basis throughout your day and evening, Norman says.
Write down your next day’s training, your big goal and a motivational message. Keep it where you see it frequently - for instance, on the fridge - to keep you on track for the long term, Bradley says.