Written by Stephen R. Santangelo for the Spring 2015 issue of ATRA’s Trail Times newsletter.
Variety in training, diet, work and social life is a refreshing ingredient to keep life exciting and moving forward. However, all too often runners get into a rut in training and also with their nutrition. To avoid a downward spiral, take a look at what foods you choose, and review your training log to see where, when, and how improvements and adjustments can be made.
Modification is the key element of any active lifestyle, and optimizing diet will enable continued training at a high level and reduce the possibility of injury and illness. Changes in training, eating and lifestyle play a major role in stimulating the neurological pathways to the brain in a positive way which often results in more energy, reduced stress, and more restful sleep,. Balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and creating a more positive outlook on life and training results in a better-rounded lifestyle.
Sport specificity is overrated for the non professional and average fitness enthusiast. Most recreational athletes enjoy a challenge whether it is to set a personal best, beat others in competition, or more simply, just to feel good. Take a look at your physical interests outside of running, regardless of how far removed they are from your usual training. After identifying these interests, include them in your regime one, or two days per week. Not only will this refresh your physical well-being, it will provide a mental outlet too. This psychological recess can do wonders for all aspects in life!
Additionally, challenge yourself to be creative in what and how you prepare your meals. Take your knowledge of nutrition and make wonderfully artistic meals incorporating color, texture and shapes. These three elements play an integral role in how we taste, smell and perceive food. Make eating enjoyable. Too many make food their enemy; too many carbs, too many calories, not enough of this and too much of that. Find unique foods and combine them so you receive the nutritional benefits as well as the enjoyment eating can have. Be social with your food. Develop a positive relationship with what you have on the table. Make time to relax when eating. Don’t rush. Don’t grab food and go. This is a time when you let go of the day’s stress and reflect on the positive experiences you have had or are going to have in work, training and recovery.
Your time alone and with others will determine how you look at life and accept what comes your way and better understand what your purpose is. The aforementioned are just some approaches to take this year to help you grow as a person and as an athlete. When next year comes around, re-evaluate what you have done this year. Keep the useful elements, and discard the rest. Learn to let go of things which did not provide you any benefit. This applies to training, diet and all aspects of life.