Injuries suck. I think every runner and athlete can agree with this sentiment. Whether an injury pops up mid-season, pre-season, or off-season, it can put the brakes on all the hard work you’ve put towards achieving your goals. I know because I’ve been there. But I’ve also come out the other side and am now 100% healthy and injury-free!
Although running injuries sometime seem like a dark, looming cloud ready to strike down on your training at any moment, trust me – it doesn’t have to be that way. By ‘eating to run,’ you can fuel your body in a way that allows you to avoid injuries, heal faster from current injuries, and train optimally towards a faster future.
Before I was ‘eating to run’, I thought I ate pretty healthy. I frequently bought any product that boosted a “low calorie” or “low fat” label, thinking that this was the smart approach to my nutrition. I believed in buying based on the nutritional facts label and gave little concern to the ingredients section. If a product was gluten free and had the word “thin” or “skinny” in its title, I assumed it was a healthy home run. Little did I know I was actually eating countless empty calories, white carbs, and refined sugars. What’s so terrible about these ingredients? Don’t runners need tons of carbs? Well, runners do need carbohydrates, but not these ones! Eating this type of diet leads to inflammation and injury prone bodies.
Lesson #1: Don’t read labels… Read ingredient lists
During the times that I ate foods based on ‘low calorie’ or ‘low fat’ labels, I was frequently injured. I didn’t understand that there was a correlation between to the two phenomena or why I was always craving sugar, was constantly tired, and could not recover optimally from my training. Things hit a breaking point (literally), fall of 2014 when I was training at 100+ miles a week (160+ km / week) and fueling sub par.
My highly inflammatory diet coupled with over-training created the perfect injury storm, and I ran into the worst injury I’ve ever had. One that made me question if I was truly born to run. On October 31, 2014, I was diagnosed with a pelvic stress fracture and told I would not be able to run for 10 weeks. At the time, I was devastated and searched for anyone or anything to blame. I did not realize the huge part my nutrition had played into that injury. I simply thought that my body was fighting against me and giving out on me. It took a great deal of time and research for me to accept that my diet had been partially to blame. And it took a lot of growing up for me to realize the drastic change I needed to make if I wanted to heal from this injury and prevent future ones.
Once I acknowledged the nutritional cause of my injury I was able to change for the better. It was almost liberating to know that I was in control of building a body that could be preventative instead of prone to injuries. To me, there was nothing more powerful than this realization.
Lesson #2: Cut (out) the Crap
Shortly after this empowering realization, I found Eat 2 Run and started incorporating Sarah’s principles into my nutrition plan. I no longer avoid fat like the plague and have significantly reduced processed carbs and refined sugar from my diet. Today, my diet looks a lot different than the one described above. And boy, did this make an impressive difference!
I truly believe that ‘eating to run’ has played a key part in the success of my post-injury rehab, healthy progression back to running, and with gaining back my endurance and speed this past spring and summer. I owe my current consistency in training to these nutritional choices (and of course my incredible coach as well).
Now, after seventeen years of running, tens of thousands of miles run, and numerous injuries, I’ve finally learned a nutritional formula that has helped me become more resilient to injury.
Lesson #3: Fill your plate full of anti-inflammatory and nutrient dense foods
At my current mileage of 70-80 miles a week (112-130km/week), I know I have to be smart about what I put in my body to get it to perform the way I desire. To do so, I eat primarily whole foods that are nutrient dense and organic, while avoiding foods that have an inflammatory effect on the body. I do not read nutritional facts or count calories; instead, I read ingredients and do not buy foods that contain ingredients I cannot pronounce.
These changes have been transformative in my energy, training, and health. I no longer crave endless amounts of sugar, fear fats, or have digestive issues. Some of my favourite anti-inflammatory and nutrient dense staple foods are oatmeal, avocados, sweet potatoes, nuts, fish, rice, quinoa, chicken, grass fed beef and dairy, chia seeds, and of course tons of fruits and vegetables!
I now honestly believe that the way to avoid future injuries and heal faster from current ones is a simple nutrition commitment to fuel your body with whole, nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory foods.
Like I said, injuries suck. So, if we have the nutritional tools to prevent them, don’t we owe it to ourselves and our goals to build a future that inhibits injuries? Committing to ‘eating to run’ has allowed me to train consistently, prevent future injuries, and set larger goals than ever before. I hope it can do the same for anyone else who chooses this lifestyle.
Best wishes for healthy and speedy feet,
Colligate Runner (University of Idaho)
Eat 2 Run Ambassador