Perry was asking for advice the other day on how to run with a backpack, so I thought I'd make a bloggle out of his question.
Running with a backpack is one of the few topics on which I consider myself an absolute expert (others include joggling, pasta-making and pasta consumption). Back when I was running twice a day, I did 90 percent of those miles toting a backpack. And over the last few years, most of my running mileage has been joggling with a backpack.
How do you run with a backpack without it being a miserable, uncomfortable experience? Just follow these easy steps:
1) Pick a backpack that is lightweight and has narrow, soft shoulder straps. The fewer compartments, straps, flaps and buckles the better. I use a Reebok pack similar to the one pictured above.
2) Do everything possible to minimize the load of the pack. If you're running home from work, as I often do, this may require leaving shoes at work, or wearing lightweight work clothes (seriously, I avoid wearing heavy pants and belts).
3) Tighten the shoulder straps enough so the pack sits snugly on your back, but not so tight that it feels restrictive for arm movement (especially if you're going to be joggling).
4) Now you're ready to run. You'll notice as you start to run that the pack will swing in the opposite direction to your stride. The best way to minimize this annoying – and potentially chafing – swinging movement is to run forward without any side-to-side bobbing of your torso. For this reason, backpack running is a great way to work on your running form. Basically, the more efficient your stride, the more comfortable the backpack will feel.
5) Once you get into a good groove, make any final adjustments to the backpack straps. Sometimes you may need to adjust the contents of the pack too. Put the books or lumpy stuff away from the part that's against your spine. And put the heavy stuff at the bottom.
6) Some people like waist and chest straps, but I can't stand them. I just use two shoulder straps, leaving my lungs free to expand without hindrance.
7) If you're running while juggling with a backpack (er, not juggling the backpack), this teaches you to be ultra-efficient. Joggling has a tendency to force your running form into an exaggerated lateral torso tilt as you toss each beanbag. I think backpack joggling has made me a much better joggler, juggler and runner.
8) Another advantage to backpack running is that you can store supplies on you, such as money for snacks, water, joggling balls (you can joggle for a few miles, then put the beanbags away if you feel like just running) or clothing. In the winter, I often start off wearing running tights and a jacket, then strip down layer-by-layer to just shorts and a singlet as I warm up. Each time I take off a piece of clothing, I can just stuff it into the backpack. People looks at me like I'm completely nuts, running while juggling through a snowstorm and wearing only shorts and a singlet. And yeah, I am nuts, but at least I'm a comfortable nutcase.
9) If something's uncomfortable, fix it; don't just put up with the discomfort or give up. We runners, jugglers and jogglers are a lot of things, but we're not quitters.