Will Run For Carbs
I've always loved to run. My mom was a runner, and my brother and I used to tag along on our rollerblades. We'd take turns holding tight to Bailey, our dalmation's leash, as she'd chase after my mom. It was a rush! Looking back, that probably wasn't the safest idea, especially without a helmet! In elementary and middle school, running the mile was something I looked forward to every year. It wasn't long before I began to dabble in youth cross country and track. I distinctly remember loving hurdles, that is, until I fell flat on my face in the gym and never went back. The track felt monotonous, and in high school I joined the cross country team. Being able to run free in the Great Outdoors was exhilarating. The trails and courses were always different, and lets' be honest, the night-before pasta-feeds and carb-loading with the team was enough to keep me coming back!
You, Yourself, + You
When you strip it down, running is simple. No weights, no gym, just you and your mind. For some, it can be scary territory. Running can get lonely. When we're forced to spend alone time with ourselves, our minds can begin to take us down a dark and scary path. On the other hand, you can choose to flip your perspective and see the possibility for growth in solitude.
Cross country was technically a team sport, but at the end of the day, it was just me. There was no passing the ball, covering the goal, or calling plays.
Running taught me to be independent--it taught me to be self-reliant and mentally tough.
Freshman year of college, I felt a bit lost. I wasn't in sports anymore, and the lack of structure caused me to fall out of my exercise routine. It wasn't long before I realized that I needed to get moving again. I went to the campus rec center and ran on the treadmill, eventually graduating to the indoor track. I was getting my exercise, yes, but it felt so monotonous and boring. It wasn't until I began getting outside on the trails and bike paths that I started to fall in love with running all over again.
Currently, I run anywhere from 4-7 miles, 5 days a week. I know that I'm no ultra-marathoner (yet, hah!), but I truly love the experience of putting on my favorite workout gear, tuning in to an upbeat playlist or an inspiring podcast, and being in nature with the rising (or setting) sun. Many friends have asked me how to enjoy running--saying that they're trying their best but it's just not clicking. Below is a list of the 7 most important factors that have helped me to become a better runner and have fun while doing it!
*Disclaimer: I do consider myself an athlete, but I am by no means an expert--I just really love to run. The following tips are inexpensive (or free) ways to help anyone at any level enjoy running more.
Scroll through the images below for My Top 7 Running Tips!
7 Ways To Love Running
A No-Meat Athlete's Recipe For Success
1. Gear Up: Look Good, Feel Good
Quality kicks are key! Shoes are my favorite part about the running experience--I like to be bold and make a statement. My advice is to find a shoe that's fun and unique, also taking comfort and quality into account. I love the almost barefoot feel, so my go-to style is the Nike Free shoe. Give your new shoes time. When breaking in a fresh pair, take it easy on the distance and intensity to avoid ending up with painful blisters and sore arches. Shoes aren't the only way to amp up your running experience--neon tops and funky tights are energizing and give you a boost of confidence! Below are links to some of the other gear essentials that I can't run without:
- Quality Kicks - Nike Free tennies are perfect if you prefer a lightweight, less structured fit.
- Arch Support - I learned the hard way in high school, never run without arch support. After a painful stress fracture, I never run without my custom orthotics. Especially if you have high arches, pick up some insoles to protect your feet and prevent injury. A great brand is Spenco.
- Arm or waistband - I love listening to music and tracking my run on my iPhone. I used to use an armband, until I found the FlipBelt that goes around your waist. This handy accessory makes it easier to grab my iPhone if I need to look at something, and also holds keys and cards in place.
- App Tracker - MapMyRun is my favorite app for tracking my miles. I love that you can set it to tell you your pace, time, distance, and splits at whatever intervals you choose.
- Eyewear - Sunglasses are a must--bug shield anyone? I love my Oakley Frogskins, because they come in so many fun colors and they're incredibly lightweight, so they won't start to drive you crazy on longer runs.
2. All About The BPM
Make a fly playlist for your run. If you want to get technical with it, you can match the BPM (beats per minute) of your songs to your running pace. Otherwise, Spotify can do it for you! When you open the app and begin running, it will automatically detect your pace and play songs that correspond. If you aren't already subscribed to my monthly motivational 'In The Raw' newsletter, be sure to get signed up at the bottom of the website! Each newsletter includes a new Spotify playlist that I put together, with some of my current workout favorites. Follow me @ErinStanczyk to rock out! Below is a sample from my September Vibes playlist:
When I'm not jamming out, I love to listen to my favorite ultra-marathoner-turned-plant-based-health-nut podcast host, Rich Roll. He has tons of great insight on personal growth and development, and interviews some truly amazing individuals!
3. Get Some Green
Rain or shine, hit the pavement, not the hamster wheel. The treadmill will slowly but surely drive almost anyone to the point of insanity. Watching tv while running can help, but I feel like I quickly lose focus when my mind is distracted, and I like to feel myself getting stronger and faster! The track is a slight upgrade from the treadmill, but it can also begin to feel repetitive. I say, this is one time when you're totally allowed to get off-track! It's easier said than done when it's pouring rain outside or when the days get short and snow begins to fall--all the more reason to gear up! Fresh air does the mind, body, and soul a heck of a lot of good, especially in the winter months. A bit of sunshine will give you your daily dose of natural vitamin D, and nothing combats a bad mood or SAD (seasonal affective disorder) like the Great Outdoors.
4. Get Your Mind Right
Meditate--yoga isn't the only time we're allowed to be present and mindful. The biggest lesson I've learned from yoga is that--yoga isn't the only place I can feel as refreshed as I do--after yoga! (If that makes any sense). At it's core, yoga is about syncing your breathe with your body. With each inhale and each exhale, movement and/or stillness occurs. This delicate balance takes practice to begin to feel the "flow," and running should be no different!
If you feel stressed out, anxious, or depressed, try to focus on every step forward and every breath in and out. Take notice of your surroundings--if you're outdoors, you're bound to witness plenty of beauty around you! Direct your mind somewhere positive. When the road gets tough, turn inward and flip your perspective. Are you getting tired and winded? Or are your lungs and muscles getting stronger?! All of the cells in our bodies respond to the thoughts that enter our minds--both life-giving and life-sucking thoughts. Get your mind right, and your body will thank you!
5. Hydrate, Nourish, Fuel
Before a workout we're told to fuel up on carbs. Carbs = Energy. We don't need to fear carbs, especially if we're using them. However, there are good and bad carbs. Refined, white flour and table sugar are definitely not good carbs--think white bread, white pasta, bagels, cake, and doughnuts. Fruit is the perfect example of a good carb; both sweet and regular potatoes are, as well.
Yes, fruit contains sugar, but it is part of a bigger package that includes fiber, which keeps blood sugar from spiking, and helps digestion. Not to mention, you're getting a powerhouse of other vital nutrients! There are two plant-based carbohydrates that I, as well as almost every other plant-based athlete considers the perfect food: Bananas and Potatoes. I grew up fearing carbs and sugar, limiting myself to one banana a day, and never touching a potato--sweet or not. I have since learned how to properly fuel my active body, and that might include any of the following pre- or post-workout.
Before and after, it's important to eat light, easily digestible foods--think smoothies.
- Banana "Nice" Cream
- Green Smoothie
- Fruit Smoothie
- Other Fruits
- Watermelon or Cantaloupe - two of the most digestible fruits (eat on an empty stomach)
- Baked Sweet or Regular Potatoes - cut in half, wrap in foil, pop in oven (time/temp. varies)
6. Pace Yourself + Set Goals
Especially when starting out, prevent burnout by working your way up. Increase your distance a little bit each week. Another great tip is to slow down. Learn how to pace yourself. When you start running, find a speed that feels comfortable--as if you could run at that pace forever. I love sprinting and breathing hard, but when it comes to logging miles, you've got to keep the bigger picture in mind. Speaking of the bigger picture, set a goal for yourself!
I like to set myself personal goals before each run. Every once in a while, I zoom out and set a greater goal by signing up for a race. Start by trying a 5K fun-run, then a 10K, then a half marathon, and maybe even a full marathon someday! No matter what goal you set, remember--distance running is an endurance sport, so be patient, put in the time, and enjoy the gradual climb.
7. Balance With Cross-Training
Change things up. Keep your body guessing. Maybe you run 3-5 days a week, and the other days are devoted to active recovery, such as yoga, or resistance training. Like I said at the beginning, I typically run 5 days a week. However, only a couple of them are long 5 to 7-mile runs, while the others are just quick 25 to 30-minute jogs accompanied by some other form of exercise. On my short-run days, I like to start with some form of resistance training, either with hand weights or my own body weight.
There are tons of amazing workout videos, workout programs, and classes out there. Below are some of my favorites cross-training activities:
- Spinning - Indoor cycling is my all-time favorite way (besides running) to get sweaty and squash stress! I currently teach classes at a luxury, boutique fitness studio called Fly--if you're local, come check it out!
- Videos - Two of my go-to video workouts are Insanity and T-25 with my favorite fitness guru, Shaun T. If you're interested in Beachbody workout programs, ask me, I've tried them all!
- iPhone Apps - The 7-Minute Workout is a life-changing app that has been a part of my morning routine for over a year now. I also love to use this one when I'm crunched for time or traveling.
- Yoga - Yoga is my absolute favorite form of active recovery. If you're running a lot, your muscles will be tight, so yoga is a nice way to slow down and stretch, while also getting stronger. Going to a class ensures that you keep your focus, as well as get hands-on adjustments and words of wisdom from your instructor.
Head Up, Eyes Forward
I hope that some of these steps will inspire and motivate you to try running, help you to enjoy the process more, and fuel you to up your game if you've already developed a love for the sport!
Keep your eyes peeled for a super bright and energizing smoothie recipe coming your way soon! In the meantime, subscribe to my monthly motivational 'In The Raw' newsletter at the bottom of the website to stay up-to-date on new blog posts and to receive a discount on Eat.Move.Rest. apparel!
I've gotta run! ;)