In just about every daily choice, whether it’s having another beer or staying up late, I consider how it is going to affect my running and make a choice accordingly.
I believe that running is more than just something I do everyday. It’s a lifestyle. It is impossible for the human body to maintain a training schedule while drinking upwards of six drinks the night before a run, getting four hours of sleep and eating a mixed diet of hamburgers and burritos.
Living a healthy lifestyle also has its other extreme. Paleo, vegan and other diets can be incredibly healthy when executed smartly, but these may be too difficult for starting and experienced runners alike. These are drastic steps. Power to the people who can manage to stick to the strict standards of Paleo, but for the rest of us, we need to find another solution.
While there are many aspects to living a healthy lifestyle, eating habits seem to be the most difficult for people to alter.
Much like designing and executing a training regiment, planning a healthy diet should be attainable. Think baby steps that you know you can handle. You might be able to stick with a diet for a week, but after you break down and go back to your old ways, it will be a week of effort and suffering wasted.
While I do not profess to be a dietician or nutritionist, I know what works for me. I still eat the occasional hamburger, and yes, I will partake in the occasional late night Del Taco run. But most days I try to remain conscious of what I’m eating.
I have three main philosophies when deciding what and when I eat: make your food, eat often and eat balanced.
Make your food:
Packing a lunch and cooking your meals is the easiest way to eat healthy. For many, it’s difficult to find the time to go grocery shopping and cook. Most full-time students are part-time employees as well, making it difficult to find the time to fry up a meal when homework and work take up the majority of their free time.
The unavoidable truth is that we all have to make time to eat right. I’ve gotten to the point where I can set my coffee machine up and pack a lunch in less than 15 minutes. If students combined all of the time that they spent scrolling through their newsfeed on Facebook or checking their Instagram, they’d probably have enough to time to pack three to four lunches on a daily basis.
Going to the grocery store is a hassle. I despise it. Driving to the store, resisting the urge to buy everything, loading up the car and taking everything inside … it’s a process.
Now, think about it from a financial perspective. By going to the grocery store, you can save tons of money. Every sandwich you buy at school is $5 or $6. Every burger with fries that you buy at The Habit is going to come out to about $7. If you are buying a soda, tack on another $1.50. If you buy anything but regular or iced coffee, tack on another $3 to $4 more bucks.
Now think about that money in terms of hours worked. My reaction: I guess going to the grocery store and cooking isn’t that bad
Eating often should not be confused with eating a lot. Believe me, I enjoy nothing more than stuffing my face and falling into the sweet bliss of a food coma. Unfortunately, these eating habit are taxing on the metabolism.
I eat something small every couple hours and choose either lunch or dinner (or both) to be my larger meal. I try to eat about six small meals a day. These small meals are more like snacks. A bag of carrots, pretzels, trail mix and dried fruits are all good for small meals. Fruits like bananas and apples are also easy to throw into a backpack before heading to school.
I eat simple, but hearty meals for lunch and dinner. Sandwiches are a staple of mine because they are easy to make the night before school or work. For breakfast and dinner, I find easy recipes that don’t involve a lot of ingredients and have been working my way up to more advanced recipes. My breakfasts usually consist of either a bowl of cereal and yogurt, eggs or oatmeal. For dinner, I make a lot of pastas and fry meat and vegetables to go with it. My meals do tend to be very carbohydrate heavy, but with the amount of miles I’m putting in and the active lifestyle I lead, I could use the extra fuel.
Think of every meal in terms of components. When I cook dinner, I try to include a meat, a starch and a couple of servings of vegetables or fruits.
By getting in the habit of eating fruits and vegetables with every meal, you are satisfying a portion of your hunger that may have been filled by that box of Oreos in the back of your pantry (I make the box difficult to reach so that I don’t eat a third of it when I’m scrounging for food after a run).
Another strategy in eating a balanced diet is simply not buying sweets. For example, I avoid buying beer, ice cream, cookies and soda at the grocery store. This allows me to save money and cut those foods and beverages out of my diet.
This may sound a little masochistic for some, but the truth is, after a couple weeks you won’t remember what you missed.
What people do not realize is that a diet is a set of eating habits that involve what you eat as well as how you eat. While you should be conscious about what you eat, I have found that the how is much easier to change for the beginning runner.