When I first started running, little did I know about properly fueling my body for training and performance. It wasn’t until after a few workouts I would feel depleted, that I realized I needed to change my eating habits in order to continue training. Although, I ate a well-balanced diet, I found myself skipping meals while my body was screaming for more fuel.
Did you know that according to Active.com, you will be burning an extra 100 calories roughly for each mile that you run? After learning this fun fact and doing more research on my poor eating patterns, I started to adopt a healthier diet that includes these essentials: carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals such as calcium.
Here are my top 8 ways to stay healthy:
- Breakfast – This is my favorite meal of the day, not only because I have the chance to burn the calories off, but because I like to include boiled eggs, multigrain bread, oatmeal and yogurt.
- Pre-Run – Before the run, I normally don’t eat. I will have my caffeine fix and a glass of water to keep me hydrated.
- Pre-racing breakfast – If I am racing, I will have a bowl of oatmeal with some brown sugar and fruit. Sometimes, I will have pancakes with fruit, about a couple of hours before the race. If there is no time to eat, I will bring a protein bar with me or have a smoothie.
- Lunch – Usually, I will have some soup or a salad.
- Snack – If I am running after work, I will bring an apple or any other light snack before the workout. This will sustain me until dinner.
- Water – I drink plenty of water, about eight cups a day. I make sure to drink enough water throughout the day. I like to find routes that have water stops along the way or I bring a water bottle with me.
- Vitamins – I take vitamin C each day to fight off any colds.
- Next day racing – I am racing the next day, I eat foods that I know agree with me; otherwise, I’ll end up with an upset stomach. I also avoid creamy sauces or spices. Making healthier food choices was key to improving my running and a quicker recovery.
I still enjoy having snack foods and I do have a sweet tooth, but I keep everything in moderation. Now I keep healthier snacks around like pumpkin seeds, so I won’t overindulge.
Running in hot weather can cause heat-related illnesses, zap your energy and diminish your performance if you are not properly aware of the dos and don’ts before heading out. The consequences of being ill-prepared for the heat could lead to permanent brain damage or even death due to severe heat stroke and dehydration.
In 2002, while living in South Korea, I suffered from heat exhaustion after running 10km in the heat. I was quite ill and needed medical attention. From that bad experience I learned to hydrate enough before working out, not push myself like I did in the race, and not to race that same day for another 200 metres. I also learned that I don’t run well in the hot weather. My runs are done early in the morning or in the evening.
To keep you safe in hotter than normal conditions, here are my top five running tips that have helped me and are good reminders.
- Know the best time to run: Everyone has different levels of tolerance for running in hot and humid conditions. If your run is negatively affected by the heat, try to avoid running in the hottest part of the day, which is from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. If there isn’t an option, try to choose routes in the trails where shade will keep you cool.
- Clothing: Wear sweat-absorbing fabrics to help keep you dry and comfortable. Try to avoid moisture-absorbing fabrics like cotton in anything from socks to shorts to t-shirts. The lighter the garment, the better off you will be. Wear sunglasses and running caps to protect your eyes from the sun year-round. Your cap will also help shield you from the sun’s ultraviolet rays while preventing your scalp from getting burned. It comes in handy on rainy days too if you’re not a fan of the water beating down in your eyes.
- Sunblock: To protect your skin from sun damage and to prevent skin cancer, apply sunscreen before your run. A very pleasant benefit to protecting your exposed skin is it slows down the natural aging process. Wear the right SPF according to the pigmentation of your skin.
- Hydration: Drink plenty of fluids. Drink at least two to three liters of water a day. Runners need to drink at least two cups of water two hours prior to running and another cup thirty minutes before. Invest in a water bottle to carry with you or plan your route where you know of multiple sources of water. Anytime you feel the heat, take a few sips of water as needed.
- Slow the pace when running or cross training in the heat. Pool running is a great alternative to running. It can be done with or without a flotation vest and can mimic the running motion in deep water. Another option is the treadmill, the advantage being if you need to stop early you’ll still be back where you started. Many gyms provide fans and water fountains. If you feel more tired from the heat than normal, it’s best that you stop and try again later.
After your run, drink plenty of water or a sports drink to replenish lost electrolytes. Don’t forget to eat some cooling foods as well, such as watermelon or cantaloupe.
Remember to listen to your body as this is your guide to stay within the boundaries of not overdoing it. Being a good listener could save your life.