Friday, January 23, 2015

Sustainable Running

Sustainable Running:
10 Habits To Keep You Running Healthy Over The Long Haul

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.comBy Kathy Vaughan

1. Keep a Training Log – Track your runs on a calendar, in a journal or in whatever format works for you. I just started my third year of using the Nathan Training Log Plus. This log does not have a starting date, so you can begin it whenever you like. It has enough entries for a full calendar year. Daily, I include my time, mileage, cross training, training partners, and any other notes I find pertinent. I include Rest Days and Travel Days. I will jump ahead in the log to write down races or any dates I have set for other self- or unsupported runs, and this makes it easy to count how many weeks I have left to train for a particular event.

2. Set Goals – Setting goals is an important aspect of running as a part of your day to day life, year round. I set weekly, monthly and yearly goals. Some of these goals are set to accomplish with a partner, and some of the goals I set are for my own personal achievements. My goals often have tiers to them, or an “A” goal and a “B” goal. For races, I usually have a list of goals I would like to reach. Writing goals down and visualizing yourself achieving them are important aspects to accomplishing them. I write down all of my goals, either in a notebook or on a piece of paper that attaches to my adventure clipboard. This clipboard also has maps, routes, mileages, and other notes I use to plan out my long runs and winter cross country ski routes. For upcoming races, I will have a course map printed out and write down notes about aid stations, drop bags, cut-off times and any other special regulations I need to remember. I study this information ahead of time and it helps me to prepare for race day and gives me a better chance of reaching my goals.

photo by Ras/

3. Hold Yourself Accountable – Throughout each week, I am working on organizing a training schedule. I contact friends and set up running or skiing dates. Each week, I generally get together with a friend 2 days and also run or ski with Ras at least a couple of times each week. The time and distance are based on what both of us hope to accomplish and we settle on a route together. Ras and I have a standing “Fartlek Friday” date where we play around with speed. I like knowing that unless we have a race that weekend, or it is a recovery day, we will get out for an hour together and do intervals. I go by a blend of where I feel like running and what kind of a run I am needing to help me accomplish a larger goal, as far as how I decide on my long run/ski for the week. I like to do an ultra distance/endurance outing, about every 2 weeks. If the event is particularly strenuous, then I may wait 3 or 4 weeks in between long efforts. I like to be trained and ready year round to run long at any time. I run at an easy pace and include hiking as needed. This allows my body to get out and do this stuff regularly. By looking ahead, sharing my goals with others in person and on social media, writing my plans down and working towards them daily, I am able to include endurance training as a part of my life year round.

4. Eat a Healthy Diet – It takes a lot of energy to be active and this comes in the form of healthy foods. Take in good healthy nutrients each day with a variety of foods, making sure to eat whole foods and lots of fruits and vegetables. Cooking and baking our own foods is the best way to ensure a healthy diet. I love cooking and baking. Planning out my food for the day often becomes part of the running scheduling. If I know I will be out on an all day run, I will put a meal together in the slow cooker in the early morning. When I get home tired, a healthy, hot meal is all ready to eat. Sometimes, I will have food in a thermos, waiting in the car. I prepare food ahead of time to have on the trail with me, such as rice & bean burritos, veggie sandwiches, or vegan grilled cheese (with Ras' special homemade Low Fat Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce). I follow a low-fat vegan diet, due to a compromised pancreas, and it is important that I prioritize menu planning well. I could get quite ill if I consume too many fats or sugars. It works best if I prepare my own food and stay away from processed or purchased foods. We all will run and recover more efficiently if we have food ready to use as fuel for our endurance efforts and to recharge our batteries after expending so much energy. Have easy to grab foods ready to go for when the “runchies” hit, like hummus & veggies; fruit ready to go for smoothies; homemade, wholesome baked goods; hot beans or soup all ready on a woodstove or in a slow cooker; or fresh veggies in a spring roll with a protein rich dip, like tahini sauce.

5. Wear Running Shoes That Allow The Human Foot To Function As A Human Foot – Altra Running makes a shoe with a wide toe box shaped like our feet, which allows our feet to spread out in a natural way and feel the earth. The shoes also have a zero drop platform, which means the heel of the shoe is not ramped up higher than the toe box. This encourages good foot placement and proper running form, making it so that fewer over-use injuries occur. I always run in Altras and I've been able to run injury-free since I began wearing them 3 years ago.

6. Allow Rest Days, Recovery Times, and Sleep – Our bodies and minds need time to relax and recuperate from long endurance efforts and high mileage weeks. It is important to incorporate lower mileage weeks and complete Rest Days into our daily lives. I like to push myself hard, but I also like to sit quietly and rest. It is important to strike a good balance between the two in order to maintain a life where running is a consistent thread throughout our days. I don't feel guilty about taking days off as needed and I understand the concept of “time on my feet”. If I am feeling sluggish or lacking mental energy, I will just go out on a walk. The fresh air helps me to clear my head and the walking contributes to a lifestyle of staying fit. I include any walk mileage in my log. To determine how many Rest Days I need after a long endurance effort, I go by how I feel. I will naturally head out the door for my next true training run when my mind and body are ready. Sleep is important and it's good to prioritize it. Yoga postures, lavendar oil and visualizations can help if falling asleep and staying asleep are difficult for you.

photo by Ras/

7. Acquire Proper Running Attire - With all of the right layers and gear for foul weather running, excuses for not heading out the door year round are eliminated. Clothing does not have to be expensive or top of the line, just organized and well thought out. I have a seasonal, and sometimes non-existent income, but I prioritize having the gear I need to live a healthy lifestyle. I am honored and privileged to have been chosen for a second year as an Ambassador for Altra Running, so my awesome running shoes will be provided to me once again. For this I applied, sharing my accomplishments and goals with Altra and committing to helping spread the word about their product and living a healthy lifestyle while doing so. In addition, I know it is important to have wool layers and a few other key pieces of clothing to stay warm in the winter months. I accept hand-me-downs and purchase discounted clothing on-line to help keep a complete adventuring wardrobe. When I am gifted money from family for my birthday or a special holiday, I always use it to purchase a needed piece of running gear or clothing item. I blog about clothing and gear that I love and have been given great items as a “Thank You” from companies for having done this. (Zensah argyle compression socks and sports bra, What An Adventure Ultra Bag) I make repairs on gear when I can and mend clothing as needed. I make stuff last for years and I rotate all my clothing equally so it gets pretty even wear and tear. I line dry all clothing and never throw anything in the dryer. This helps maintain the integrity of the clothing and helps it to last longer. Put together two full sets of clothing for all seasons, and you will always be ready to run. You will have your outfit for the day, plus any layering changes you need.

8. Stretch and Strengthen - It is important to stretch regularly to help prevent over-use injuries from occurring. Runners have a tendency to acquire some classic injuries like Plantar Fasciatis and Illiotibial Band Syndrome. Spending some time after a run and on Rest Days, especially hips, quads, calves and hamstrings, will do a lot to help prevent these issues from arising. A yoga class or doing yoga postures at home is also a great way to stay limber and injury free. Stretching can be marked down in the training log, helping you stay accountable. I really like Sage Rountree's book “A Runner's Guide to Yoga” for good postures for specific needs in strengthening or healing injuries. Incorporating some form of strength work into your weekly schedule, focusing on running specific exercises, will not only help make you a faster, stronger runner, but it will also help to strengthen specific areas that will help prevent injuries.

9. Own It – It isn't necessary to tell everyone that you are an ultrarunner, but it isn't something you have to be shy about either. Embrace it. Firemen and firewomen are proud of being firefighters. Nurses and doctors are honored and looked up to for their line of work. There are bank tellers, and basketball players, teachers, coaches, artists, musicians, preachers, orchard workers and loggers. We can all be proud of whatever it is that we do. It takes a lot of discipline to be a runner and live a life dedicated to keeping fit and healthy. By doing so, we help spread the word about how fun it is to run and the health benefits gained from it. This benefits those around us. Look around YOU at who you've helped influence! Be proud of it! 

10. Help Inspire Others – By living a lifestyle where running and staying healthy are made a priority, we can help inspire others to dedicate the same kind of attention to their health and fitness. When others see us happy, full of energy, bouncing back after illness or injury, and maintaining a healthy weight, it can't help but send a good message. Once you know it benefits others to see you living in a good way, you'll want to continue on the path so that others will also.

graphic by Ras/

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