I’m new to running. Ok, maybe that’s not the best way to start a post about running advice. It doesn’t make me super credible, right? Let me rephrase this then–I’m fairly new to running. I started about three years ago. Before that I lived the blissful life of a European anti-activist, meaning I used to just not practice physical activities. Except for walking and extensive savasana.
That’s also why I say I’m new to running because I want to clarify that I’m not a long-time athlete. I used to be an anti-athlete for the majority of my life. It all shifted three winters ago when Noah, my better half, had to study for some crazy finance exams (I never forced him to do that btw). In any event, I suddenly found myself with tons of free time as he implemented his early AM, pre-work study sessions. I decided to give running another shot. I started with 15 minutes at a time, then 20, then 30 aaaaand fast forward, I ran my first 5K that Spring. Then last year, I ran my first trail race (10 miles through the woods, in late April–I still have a huge scar on my leg from the first river crossing, where I fell right on a rock with my left leg). Oh yes, and then I ran my first half marathon in May 2016. It was insane. I almost cried when I crossed the finish line and realized that I had just run 13.2 miles in one hour and 48 minutes. It was way faster than my goal of doing it just under two hours was, and suddenly I found myself feeling like I wanted more.
So I learned a ton about running and myself over the last three years and feel the need to share it. First, a huge part of running is mental. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I believe that pretty much anyone can run 13.2 miles and probably even more. What lets some of us thrive and accomplish this, and others not, is the mental game. It’s all in your head: you can both tremendously sabotage yourself, or you can do the exact opposite. I used to tell myself that I couldn’t run. That I had no endurance and no strength. And guess what, I didn’t run. So when I decided that I was able to run and bought my first running shoes, I simply became a runner. It was all in my head, and it still is. On days where it’s gray and 15 degrees out, for example, I catch myself looking for excuses such as it’s too cold, I won’t be able to perform. Now I know that this voice in my head (I know, that sounds a little creepy ;)) is not real. It’s my comfortable side trying to stay comfortable and boil another pot of tea. But I’ve proven to myself that no weather is bad for running; there is only bad attitude.
Tip number two is nutrition. Again, doesn’t sound like rocket science, but it seems to be challenging for some people. I perform best when I stay on top of my nutrition, and what I mean by that is that my running is best when I eat whole, minimally processed plants without too much worry about macronutrient ratios. Running is all about endurance, and for that, you need good fuel. Fresh veggies and fruit, lots of grains and starches, and beans and seeds and nuts will do. You don’t have to bulk up on protein or drink any special shakes unless you get into ultra-marathons. There is no need to have pre-workout snacks and post-workout elixirs if you just go on a 4-mile run. I find that a lot of people are too worried about special diets and supplements when they start running, but truly, just eat real foods and focus on plants and you’ll be happy.
Sleep is the third tip I want to talk about. Sleep is like another type of food for your body. Getting consistently 8 hours will help you to perform during your workouts and endure longer runs. It’s also the best way to regenerate muscle and let your body rest enough, so it can deal with the stress that all workouts create. If I don’t get 8 hours on average, I find myself running slower and getting tired after less time. I also find that I crave more processed foods and lots more fat, which is not productive long term. I really stick to my sleep schedule, even more than to eating unprocessed foods. In that vein, I try to switch off technology around 9:30 PM so I can be in bed by 10 during the week as I get up at 6. I also don’t drink any coffee anymore after noon, so I can protect my sleep and ensure it to be really restful.
The truth is that we are all humans and life happens. I like going on trips, eating out, and hanging out with friends so following these three guidelines to a T can be hard sometimes, but I try to always aim at making them my ideal and priority, especially when I train for a race.
Are you a runner? Have you tried any of these running tips?
Also by Isabelle: Finally, Some #Realtalk About Protein & Why You Shouldn’t Stress Over It
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