How to keep up motivation during a run and NOT QUIT!

I recently received a question asking for advice on how to keep up motivation during a workout. This person found that they would always only do the minimum, and sometimes would consciously even give up early but couldn’t figure out how to make themselves stop. I’m sure this is a problem for many, many of you out there, so here is my advice.

I want you to take a moment to remember what motivated you to start running in the first place. When you reach that point in your run where you are about to quit, remind yourself why you are running. 

Picture your ultimate goal. Do you want it? The only way to get it is to make a plan and stick to it, every time. The fact that you are already running means that you can do it. The images you see all over tumblr of people who started out 300 pounds and now are down to 150 didn’t do it by quitting 2 minutes early because “that’s good enough.” They did it by running 2 minutes longer. People who run marathons don’t quit at mile 25 because “eh, I still ran 25 miles…that’s good enough.” The next time you want to run for 30 minutes and find yourself making excuses at 28, think of this…in your head 2 minutes doesn’t seem like it’s going to make much difference but those 2 minutes add up to 6, 8, 10 minutes weekly…which adds up to an ENTIRE run (or more) lost in the course of a month. At 28 minutes, you’re already exhausted, you already feel like you are dying, why not just keep going? Wouldn’t you rather have an entire day off running than quit 2 minutes early every time? 

Now take a long, hard, look at WHY you are quitting so often. What excuses are you making, and how can you do something to make those excuses not valid anymore? Use your rational, pre-run, motivated self to get rid of all of the excuses that your tired, during-run self will try to come up with. Turn off your phone. Charge your ipod. If it’s hot inside turn on the fan before you even start. If it’s cold outside purchase cold-weather running gear so that you can’t use that as an excuse to stop early. Etc. etc.

There’s the all-too-familiar excuse of, “I’m bored.” If you find that you are quitting early because you are bored then you should try to switch up your workout to make it more interesting. First, vary the time, distance, incline, and intensity of each of your workouts. If you run, say, 20 minutes 3 times a week for 10 years straight, not only will you be bored to death but you’ll still gain weight because your body won’t be challenged and so your metabolism won’t really increase. But if you run 20 minutes one time, then 30 minutes uphill, then 40 minutes easy, then 25 with some intervals, etc etc…not only will your metabolism be getting kicked into gear, but you won’t be as bored at every workout because you will constantly be tackling new and different challenges. And trust me, after doing 20 minutes of intense hills, running for 30 minutes straight on flat ground the next time will feel like a dream.

If you are a treadmill runner you could also try running outside every so often. Even if you hate it, you won’t quit from boredom, and the change will boost your metabolism. Map out a route that is a little more than you usually run and pick a landmark as your finish line. I find that I am less likely to quit early if I have a physical goal instead of running by the clock. You could also try adding new music to your ipod so that you are actually excited to hear it while you are running instead of being bored with the same old songs again. Put your favorite song at the end, past the time that you usually stop running. If you watch TV while running on the treadmill, run during your FAVORITE show. I’m talking, don’t miss a single episode, ever. Run slow enough that you can still pay attention to the show, but make a rule that if you stop running before the show is over you can never watch the part you miss later.

If your excuse is, ”I’ll just do more tomorrow instead,” please acknowledge right now that you are telling yourself a bold-faced lie. Tomorrow will be no different from today. If you quit today you will quit tomorrow. It will never end. And if you keep it up, your motivation is going to get less and less and before you know it your metabolism is going to follow suit. And one day you won’t even run anymore. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…running is 90% mental strength, 10% physical. If you are finding that your mind is the one that is failing you by telling you it’s okay to quit early, maybe you should take a step back and focus on training your mind instead of your body right now. Stop focusing on speed or distance or time. Instead make a specific running schedule at the beginning of the week AND STICK TO IT. For example, “Monday-630pm-30 minute run on treadmill, Weds-8pm-20 minute intervals of 1 min sprint, 2 min jog, Fri-6pm-20 minutes of hill program on treadmill, Sun-11am-3 mile run outside, from my mailbox to the Smith’s mailbox and back to my mailbox.” Your only goal for that week is to run when you say you will run, for the amount of time that you allotted, no less.

It does not matter how slow you go so long as you do not stop.

-Tumblr default quote, Wisdom of Confucius 

Another tactic is to start thinking this: “If I do it today, I don’t have to do it tomorrow.” This was my #1 motivating thought at the beginning, and actually still is today. My reward for running was not running! Before you run, set a goal for yourself. Say you usually run 3 miles (or however many minutes you usually do). Tell yourself that if you run 4 miles today, you can take tomorrow off. But if you quit before 4 then you have to start all over tomorrow and run 4 again. This way the reward (a guilt-free day off) is so much better than the consequence for quitting, that even your exhausted self will recognize the benefit of just running those extra minutes. Of course once my day off came I would always remind myself again, “If I just run today I can take tomorrow off instead,” which motivated me to actually continue to run most days.

I am at the point now where I rarely know how long I will be out running for…all I know is that I will be running for at least X minutes or miles, but 75% of the time I go longer. You can get there, but only if you WANT to, and only if you focus on training your mind to think that quitting is unacceptable. I know you want this…that’s why you run! So take some time to train your mind out of those excuses, and before you know it you will run to your goal every single time.

I’ve mentioned before in my posts how important it is to stay relaxed when running outside, but this video really explains it well. When I’m running on trails I am so used to it that I don’t even realize I’m doing anything different until I run with other people who only run on the road or treadmill and I see them struggling. Fear is the only thing holding you back!

Are you mentally lazy?

I have spent the past few weeks pretty mad at myself, which is why I haven’t posted in a while. I came to the realization that I have become lazy. Not physically lazy, but mentally lazy. I still run. All the time. But I take shortcuts now. I give up easily. The reason why I was able to go from never-having-exercised-in-my-life to running half marathons is because my personality is stubborn and determined. I do not fail at anything that I put my mind to. I don’t cut corners, I never take the easy way out. I don’t quit. Or at least I didn’t used to.

And that goes for the little things too. The little things are more important, because if you slack on those then your mind is already lost. For example, when I started running and I would come to a fork in the path, and one went uphill and one went straight, I ALWAYS picked the uphill. If there was a branch on the ground I would take one giant leap to get over it rather than slowing down and pussy-footing around it. When I was doing fartlek or intervals, I would sprint full speed all the way until the goal, not one inch before. When going on a 6 mile run, I would go at least 6.1 miles…5.9 didn’t count. When I ran around a corner, I always ran the entire way around and (quite literally) never cut corners. When doing crunches and other exercises, I ALWAYS did the minimum amount, no matter how tired or sore I was. I was my own strictest coach. Was.

I have spent the past couple weeks trying to re-train myself. Trying to get back to the person that I have always been proud of. I realized that I had gotten too comfortable with myself and my runs. It had become too easy, and I didn’t need to work as hard to achieve the same results. What difference did it make if I stopped at 5.9 miles? I have already achieved my “goal weight”, and I have already accomplished more than I ever dreamed possible. With the amount that I run now, I can eat whatever I want (if I want to). Running more or trying to get faster won’t change that. And I think deep down I knew this and so I let myself get lazy.

But I don’t run to lose weight. I don’t even run to stay in shape. I run because running embodies everything that I am. Determined, hard working, never completely satisfied. I should always need to run longer, faster, enter more races, have better form, learn knew techniques. These are the things that make me who I am, who I have always been…continuously striving to be better, every single run. Always working towards a goal, and when I reach that goal, creating a new one. Over and over and over. Until I physically cannot run anymore.

Along the way I lost this, but as soon as I realized it was happening I started to kick my ass back into gear. I am on the road to “recovery”, and I can finally feel good about myself, my character, again. It was a minor blip in the radar, but I’m back on track! Yesterday I was running on the treadmill and I wanted to prematurely decrease my speed slightly, but instead I made myself go those 5 extra minutes. And I remembered, “Oh yeah, this is what it feels like!” It feels so good to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, something I had forgotten. So I ask each and every one of you to assess your mindset when you run now. Are you still pushing yourself as hard as you were 2 months, or a year ago? It’s okay to take rest days or even weeks where you consciously don’t push yourself as hard, but if you are presented with a fork in the road and you don’t pick uphill, I urge you to spend the next few weeks concentrating on your willpower…training your mind to always pick the hardest path, because it’s those little things that really will permeate into your entire attitude towards running and life in general. It’s those little things that will make you a successful runner in the long run.

A mental checklist to help when the going gets tough

The next time you are pushing yourself really hard and feel like you can’t keep going much longer, concentrate on what your body is doing. Not only will concentrating on improving your form help you to run longer and faster, but it will help to keep your mind off of your pain.

Start with your head and work your way down to your feet. Is your hair drenched in sweat? Is sweat dripping down your forehead into your eyes?

Now your ears. If you are listening to an ipod, what song is playing right now? Try to concentrate on the song for a few seconds.  Are your earphones staying in your ears or do you need to find some new ones? Can you hear your feet hitting the ground?

Speaking of which, are you looking at the ground right now? Make sure that you keep your chin up and your eyes ahead of you.

Next are your nose and mouth. Are you gasping for breath, frantically in and out through your mouth? Try to breath in through your nose (your mouth can still be open, just try to direct your inhale through your nose), and then out through your mouth. And are you forgetting to swallow?

Now to your posture. Are you slouching? Try to keep your shoulders up and back…this will give your lungs more room to expand when you inhale…making it possible to inhale more air with each breath, which will up your endurance and make you much more able to tackle those extra minutes or miles that you are currently struggling with.

And now your lungs and your breathing. Are you keeping a steady rhythm with your breaths? Calm down and take deep, slow, regular breaths. The key here is regularity. If you inhale for 3 counts make sure that you train your body to exhale for the same amount, not less. The breathing is very important, so stay on this step as long as you need to.

Now concentrate on your heart.  Concentrate on feeling your heart beating, feeling your blood pumping through your veins.

Your arms. Are you swinging them out of control? Reel them back in a little. Keep them close to your body. Don’t swing them across your chest, but back and forth, perpendicular to your body with your elbows at right angles.

Down to your hands. Are they clenched in fists? Try to relax them a bit, having them in fists does nothing but stress you out.

Your boobs. Is your sports bra working? Do you need to look into something with more support, or something that wicks away moisture better?

On to your stomach. Do you feel like you want to vomit? Good! That means that you are really pushing yourself. Do you have a side stitch? Try to run taller to stretch out your stomach. Deep breaths also help to stretch it out.

Your crotch. Is your underwear soaked with sweat? Do you need to invest in some of those running shorts that have underpants sewn in? Yeah probably. Okay next.

Think of your ass for a second. No matter how big your ass is, when you are running it looks GOOD. All of your butt muscles are tight and in use right now.

Now is when you mentally check all of your leg muscles and joints to make sure everything is working okay. Are you hips feeling okay? Are your thighs burning? How are your knees? Do you need to look into some different running sneakers with more cushioning or support? How are your calves feeling? Any shin splints? How about the ankles?

And here we are to the feet! First try to isolate any aches or pains and figure out the cause. Are your arches supported enough? Are you landing on your feet in a way that makes them hurt? Any blisters? Do your feet feel cramped or too loose in your shoes?

Now that you have distracted yourself with all of these things and maximized your running form, look how close you are to the finish line!

If I could reblog every post from this site I would…instead I urge all of you to follow this blog and read all of its sections. Anyone who is interested in what I have to say will benefit from this blog!

http://realityofhealthy.tumblr.com/

Irene…

I live in NYC and hurricane Irene is due to hit here around 8pm tonight. So I’m going to the track to fit in a quick run in the rain…who knows when I’ll be able to get out again!

So why aren’t you out running today?

Running when you are sick

I am currently fighting off a cold (okay fine, have a cold…I’m stubborn). It seems as though it’s cold season because Duane Reade was all sold out of DayQuil, NyQuil, and Airborne, so I can reasonably assume that this post will pertain to many of you, either now or in the next few weeks.

When I say “sick” I mean a cold. Anything more serious should be managed by a doctor. If you can’t go to work, you should not run. If you can’t get out of bed, don’t run. But a cold is that borderline sickness that makes it difficult for you to determine whether you need the rest or are just using it as an excuse. I am a big believer that if you are honest with yourself and look deep into your mind and body you can tell if you should be running or not. But for those of you who need outside reinforcement, here are some basic guidelines.

There is a very well known rule called the “neck rule.” If your symptoms are above the neck then you can run and if they are below then you should not run. The exception is if you have a fever, in which case you should not exercise.

David Nieman, Ph.D., who heads the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University, and has run 58 marathons and ultras, uses the “neck rule.” Symptoms below the neck (chest cold, bronchial infection, body ache) require time off, while symptoms above the neck (runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing) don’t pose a risk to runners continuing workouts.

-Runner’s World, read full article here

If you do decide that you are able to run, you should take it easy. Start with 10 minutes at an easy pace, and reassess at minute 8. If you are feeling okay, reset your mental clock for a longer run…say, 20 minutes. Then again at minute 18, reassess. But always keep in mind that your endorphins will be kicking in and making you feel better than you actually are. It’s good to start your run with a “minimum” time or distance as well as a “maximum.” That way you have a rational cut-off already decided for you before your irrational, non-sick-feeling-chemicals take over. Today I ran for a minimum of 1 mile and a maximum of 40 minutes. I ended up increasing from one mile to two, and then again extending the run to about 30 minutes. And make sure to drink lots of water! This is even more important when you are sick, because being hydrated is what flushes the sickness out of your system.

Interestingly, running actually lowers your immune system for anywhere from a few hours to a few days after your run.  

Exercise definitely affects the immune system which is fighting whatever viral infection you have. High intensity exercise (such as heavy weight lifting or high heart rate cardiovascular training like cycling, rowing, running & aerobics) has been linked with suppressing the immune system1. Which means that if you workout at a high intensity you may actually be making things worse!

The good news is that low intensity exercise (very light weights and low aerobic heart rate training) MAY stimulate the immune system. So if you workout at all with a cold, make it a VERY light workout.

-Cool Running, read full article here

The way to fight this lowering of the immune system is to stay hydrated and fueled before, during, and after your runs. Eating enough carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and nutrient-rich foods will strengthen your immune system. This article is very informative about how and why you should eat certain foods. If you are dieting, make sure to eat enough healthy, nutritious foods instead of just eating less junk food. Otherwise your immune system will suffer and you will be more likely to get sick (or stay sick).

However, don’t take all of this information as saying that running will make you sick. It won’t, if you are healthy and smart about it! Running in moderation does boost your immune system. It’s only when you push yourself too hard and don’t refuel your body properly that your health will suffer. And once you do have a cold, moderate running won’t make it worse.

In one study, Weidner took two groups of 30 runners each and inoculated them with the common cold. One group ran 30 to 40 minutes every day for a week. The other group was sedentary. According to Weidner, “the two groups didn’t differ in the length or severity of their colds.” In another study, he found that running with a cold didn’t compromise performance. He concluded that running with a head cold—as long as you don’t push beyond accustomed workouts—is beneficial in maintaining fitness and psychological well-being.

-Runner’s World, read full article here

I was googling this very topic this morning, thinking in my head, “I should probably just go back to bed…” but ended up running nearly 4 miles after reading the facts about running with a cold. If you wake up tomorrow and find yourself bedridden for the next week, will you look back on today and wish you had gone for that run? Only you can know the answer to that question, but I’ll tell you that my answer was an emphatic YES.

Motivation from an unexpected source

This post is dedicated to a dear friend who just today absolutely shocked and inspired me by telling me that she started running this weekend. I used to be her…anti-exercise, pissed, purposefully and spitefully eating unhealthy…and now I think I understand how all of my friends felt when I started running. We were members of a religion whose founding principle was to lead an unhealthy lifestyle, and to give that up meant losing your identity. To be honest, she was one of the people who was in the back of my mind when I wrote the post "This is your last chance to become a runner." My friend’s running might only last a week, or it may last her lifetime, but that doesn’t matter. What inspires me is that she overcame her mental roadblocks and actually did it. On top of the physical effort, it takes so much inner strength to be able to go against everything you once believed in and start fresh. Regardless of how long her motivation to run lasts, this is a giant step in the right direction and I am so proud to have hopefully had something to do with it.

Today is my first day of rest in weeks. Yesterday marked the end of a summer of out of town weddings almost every weekend, culminating in an out of town wedding followed by an out of town job that was 11 days straight of 10 hour days, followed by another out of town wedding. I have managed to run at least every other day, but my runs have gone from 6 to 13 miles to 2 or 3 on average. Last night as I was arriving home at midnight after a 3 hour drive in pouring rain I kept thinking to myself how all I wanted to do today was sleep in and then go on a long, relaxing run in my favorite spot, but today I have barely been able to get out of bed and have been wondering if that run is really going to happen.

When I heard that my friend ran and it inspired me to try to beat my exhaustion today. To overcome a lifetime of bad habits and giving up your identity makes what I am dealing with today seem so insignificant! I’m not sure if I will be able to run (could it be that my body actually needs this rest today?!), but I will try to get out of bed, get off the couch, and at the very least unpack and get outside to do something productive. And my friend SRT, the one who will eat Taco Bell until the day she dies, inspired me to do this. 

I wanted to share this to show that inspiration goes both ways and can come from anyone at any time. Your motivation doesn’t have to come from the 100 pound marathoner who can do one-armed push-ups (that’s not me by the way…just to be clear). And your motivation doesn’t have to push you to run a marathon…it could be as small as making you get off the couch. We are lucky to have every single person in our lives, because each one contributes and inspires us daily in such unexpected ways. I never would have thought that SRT would be the one to motivate me to get off the couch today, but because we are both open to learning and growing from each other, I will have a better day today and she has had a groundbreaking weekend. My running advice to everyone today is to treasure every relationship, because you never know what tiny thing will inspire you to be a better you tomorrow.

Careful where you squat…

This post stems from a very recent personal experience. A week and a half ago I urgently had to take a crap in the middle of a run outside in the woods. This isn’t actually that unusual (I will write another post about the topic), but on this particular instance I felt very lucky because right next to me I found a nice bush with biggish leaves that I used to wipe, and also to cover up my tracks. Usually I’m scrounging around on the ground for dried up leaves, careful to steer clear of any shiny 3-leafed plants. But this one didn’t look like poison ivy, so I happily finished up my run, went home and showered as usual, and went on with my life. 

The next morning I woke up with a couple small, red, itchy bumps “down there” and on my arms. As I was searching the internet to find out what insect had bitten me, a picture of a poison sumac plant popped up. Poison SUMAC! I had forgotten about that one. I recognized the exact plant that I had carelessly wiped my entire nether-regions with, and over the next several days watched the progression from little “bug bites” to full on, golf ball sized, itchy rashes all over my inner thighs, ass, stomach and hands. I bought every type of cream I could get my hands on, with almost no relief. As I write this it is finally starting to heal, although I am taking breaks from typing to itch furiously. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in 10 days.

So, fellow runners, please see below pictures of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac plants. Please look before you squat, and don’t wipe with ANYTHING unless you are 100% sure that it is safe! It is my own ignorance that got me into this mess, so this is my attempt to impart some new-found wisdom on the rest of you so that nobody else ever has to go through this.

And, just so you all know, I have still been running with this condition. The rashes are uncomfortable and become a little irritated and inflamed during the runs, but I don’t let that be an excuse. I even still rode my bike to work for the first couple days, until it became impossible (and stupid) to sit on the seat. So if I can run with poison sumac rashes rubbing against each other on my inner thighs, you can run right now in perfect health. No excuses.

Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac

POISON IVY…

Poison ivy in the fall

POISON OAK…

POISON SUMAC…

Here are some helpful links with descriptions and treatment information:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000027.htm

http://www.nopoisonivy.com/default.asp?contentID=13

I’m not going to post pictures of the rash, because I can’t bear to look at them anymore. If you start to itch after being outdoors, just google it.

Running and your diet

The two come hand in hand. If you want to lose weight, you need to watch what you eat and exercise. Likewise if you want to become a runner, you are going to have to start noticing what foods help and hurt your runs.

First of all, cut fast food out of your diet completely and cut down on soda. These things offer nothing good for your body and will only make you feel sluggish on your runs.

"It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential."

-Bruce Lee

Honestly, if you cut out fast food and soda entirely from your diet without adding any exercise, you will probably still lose a bunch of weight. That’s how bad it is for you. “But it tastes so good! It’s not worth living if I can’t eat a BigMac.” I remember when I used to think that too, but now the mere prospect of ingesting any fast food makes me queasy. If I am starving at a mall and the only food is in the food court my body literally doesn’t even acknowledge that as food. It’s been about 10 years since I ate it. Fast food is full of hundreds of empty calories with no nutritional value, and after you eat it you feel a little gross and lethargic because your body has no idea what to do with those calories so it just stores them as fat. Since there is no nutritional value in the food, you have to eat about 1000 calories just to feel full, and then your body gets hungry again as soon as it is able to digest what you just ate because it still needs those nutrients. It’s a vicious cycle that most Americans have fallen prey to. Running will help you break this cycle, because that icky sluggishness that you have become accustomed to will rear its ugly head and make your runs much more difficult. 

I promise you that once you cut fast food out of your life and start to exercise, you won’t even miss it. There are so many other delicious and healthy foods out there that you’ve been missing out on because of your unhealthy eating! I seriously thought that feeling gross and not being able to move was just part of the post-eating process until I got healthy and started running. Now I am in tune with my body and can actually feel the difference when I give my body healthy protein and nutrients vs. greasy, empty calories. Give me the choice between fried mac and cheese and ice cream vs. a delicious sandwich or sushi and fruit and I will pick the latter almost every time. And it’s nothing to do with weight for me, it’s all just about how it makes my body feel. Once you realize that you can actually feel good ALL of the time, why wouldn’t you want that?

I can’t really sit here and tell you what to eat. There is no right answer. There are so many hundreds of thousands of possibilities for food out there, and you really just need to go explore what works for you. As a general guide, you want to avoid grease, fat and excess oil, and also very sugary foods. You want to eat foods with protein, fiber, and healthy carbs, such as fruit and veggies. When I say “healthy carbs” I mean carbs that give you something nutritionally. For example bleached white bread does nothing for you whereas whole wheat bread is full of protein and nutrients.

When you go to the grocery store, don’t buy unhealthy foods! If you don’t have them in your kitchen then you won’t see them and start to crave and eat them. Instead buy healthy alternatives. When you are hungry you won’t care what you eat as long as it tastes good and fills you up, so you may as well have only healthy options. 

Read the labels and ingredients on all foods you buy! Don’t just trust the packaging to tell you it’s healthy. Avoid foods with trans fats, preservatives, tons of saturated fat or sugars, and high fructose corn syrup (that’s what is in soda that is so bad for you). If you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients then they probably aren’t good for your body. It’s so “hippy-ish” of me to say, but shop in the organic and natural foods aisle at the store. It’s a quick way to know that you are getting healthier foods.

Try drinking delicious coconut water or 100% juice instead of sodas. Chicken or turkey instead of fatty sausage or excessive red meat. Wheat instead of white. Real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Frozen yogurt or sorbet instead of ice cream. Skim instead of whole milk. Fruit, 0% fat yogurt and low-fat granola instead of Lucky Charms. Sandwiches instead of pizza. A quick and easy stir fry at home instead of going out for gross, syrup-y Chinese. Try cooking your meats in a little bit of water instead of oil. A pinch of cheese instead of two handfuls. Dark chocolate instead of milk or white. There are so many little changes that you can make to your diet that all still involve eating delicious foods, but they will add up in the long run to a healthier you. 

The next time you are about to drink whole milk stop and think to yourself, “Do I think the whole milk is really that much better tasting than skim? Does that extra fat reallyadd that much more taste to make drinking it worth it?” I used to answer an emphatic “Yes! I can absolutely tell!” to that question, but it was more out of stubbornness than anything else. When I really, honestly, took a look at my diet, I realized that ultimately no, I couldn’t really taste that much of a difference between skim vs. whole milk, especially when it is poured over cereal. And any difference I could tell was in how “creamy” it tasted, which actually grosses me out now because I can almost feel the cream settling in the pit of my stomach, just waiting to make me hate my next run. The same goes for many low-fat foods: Haagen Dasz Chocolate sorbet (which is delicious) vs. ice cream, low-fat vs. whole milk mozzarella, low-fat vs. regular mayonnaise, etc. etc. The only thing I’m careful about is to read labels…don’t just pick low-fat by default, make sure that to make it low-fat they don’t add more processed chemicals. Dairy products are easy because to make them low-fat they usually just use skim milk instead of whole, so you know it’s safe.

The idea of benefits vs. consequences is something that I first began to understand a few years ago in relation to alcohol consumption (I couldn’t understand why I suddenly didn’t feel like getting drunk anymore). When you are younger, there is very little consequence for drinking alcohol. Yeah, you might get a little hungover, but it’s so goddamn fun the night before that it’s worth it. You suffer a bit the next day and then go out and do it again the next night. Then once you get older your tolerance goes way down and your hangovers get much worse. Many times it doesn’t feel worth it to get extremely drunk because the consequences greatly outweigh the benefits…you lose and entire day or two afterward to feeling sick. I see eating unhealthy the same way. When you are younger your metabolism is faster so you can eat lots of junk food and still look and feel pretty good. When you get older and your metabolism slow down, you have to work harder and eat much healthier in order to maintain your weight and feel healthy. So for me, it becomes less worth it the older I get to binge on gross foods. 

Since I was completely ignorant about eating when I first started, it helped me to track what I ate on sparkpeople.com for about a week. I wasn’t doing it to lose weight, but to gain an understanding about how many calories were actually in certain foods and how much was burned off during the runs and in daily life. It gave me a better sense of how much I should be eating rather than relying on my body to tell me it is full (because at that point you have usually eaten almost double what you needed to). A good rule of thumb is “wait 5 minutes”. If you wait five minutes and are still hungry, then you should eat more.

I know some of you are reading this thinking, “She’s so full of shit…she’s just fooling herself into thinking she doesn’t like fast food or fatty foods because she doesn’t want to get fat…if she could eat them she would!” I could probably eat anything I wanted and still be skinny. I’m definitely marginally skinnier now that I run, but not enough to make weight/looks a huge factor in my eating and running. I could eat anything in the world that I wanted at any time, and I choose to eat healthy and run because of the way it makes me feel. When I was in college (over 10 years ago) I used to eat a big serving of waffles for dinner, with ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and whatever else I could get my hands on, along with 2-3 glasses of Surge (that bright green soda), then wondered why I was hungry again an hour later…so then I would cook mac and cheese in my dorm room crock pot, and after all that couldn’t understand why I felt so gross at night and always had insomnia. I was clueless! Now that I know the difference and I know what it’s like to feel healthy ALL of the time, I will never be able to go back. That all has to count for something when you are taking into consideration if I am someone to take advice from.

When you have the right fuel for a run you will feel it. You won’t get tired as quickly but also won’t feel sluggish during, because your body will have all the nutrients it needs without the excess grease and fats to hold it back. Eating healthy will make your runs easier, which will make you lose weight, which will make your runs easier again, which will make you able to run more, which will increase your metabolism even when you aren’t running, which will make you lose even more weight and have to run less, which will make runs fun instead of a chore, which will make you run more and continue to lose weight. It’s a win win.