From Field to Food: Healthy Eating for Better Running
As runners, we spend a lot of time tracking the minutia of our workouts. We track our distance, times, PRs, pace, total miles and races with a meticulous attention to detail that would probably scare many non-runners if we shared the full extent of our commitment (yes, not everyone is this attracted to details, but I certainly am, as are many of my friends! 🙂 ). As I’ve indicated in previous posts, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to nutrition and hydration while running. There is certainly no magic formula, but I am enjoying the challenge of finding what works best for my body. You’ve also no doubt picked up on the fact that the beautiful epicurean has brought a new appreciation for food into my life, and lately, a new appreciation for overall healthy eating.
Interestingly, many folks often neglect to pay nearly as much attention to what they put in their bodies when they aren’t running as they do when they are running. How often has somebody told you they run/exercise so they can eat whatever they want? Now, this seems to put us at odds with our own bodies! On the one hand, we are committing so much time and effort to training for whatever race may be on the horizon as we track our progress with the detail of an IRS auditor (did that reference just give you a shutter?!). On the other hand, most people don’t stop to consider the impact of what they put in their bodies when they aren’t training. Our culture has become fixated on the speed and efficiency that fast food and processed food seemingly brings up. In an individualistic society where time is money, we look for any way we can to save time, and our diets have taken the biggest beating as a result. How often do you stop to consider what you are eating and where it’s coming from or what it might do to your body?
I’ve written before about our societal addiction to processed sugar and my quest to cut it out of my diet, but sugar is really just the tip of the iceberg. Countless research studies continue to provide evidence that our diets are increasingly high in fat, sodium, preservatives and hundreds of other ingredients most of us can’t even pronounce. At the end of the day, these foods seem to taste good, and might even give us the extra time we need to squeeze in a training run, but at what cost?
In our quest to eat a more anti-inflammatory diet, the beautiful epicurean and I have made numerous changes to our diet. Although these changes were spurred in part by need, I”m amazed by the number of friends that have commented on the food we eat, viewing it as an example of how everyone should be eating. Now, we are by no means perfect, and we certainly indulge on occasion, but we make a real effort to give our body the healthy fuel it needs to be productive and energetic. One of the best choices we have made has been joining a CSA this past summer. Each week, we pick up a fresh supply of locally grown vegetables, and it has been a complete treat! The variety has been spectacular, and it has allowed us to experiment with a wide range of new recipes, depending on what we happen to get as a part of our share for that week. In addition to the fact that we are getting a new supply of vegetables each week, we have noticed a SIGNIFICANT difference in terms of taste and freshness. Our vegetables are consistently crisper, sweeter and more delicious than anything we get in the grocery store. In addition to being organically produced, they are locally grown, which gives them such an advantage over vegetables sprayed with preservatives and flown in from around the world. There is something comforting about knowing where your food is coming from, and we are certainly converts.
This past weekend, we truly got to see where our food was coming from. Our CSA hosted an open house and gave tours of their farm, which was a mere ten minute drive from our house. We were able to meet the young farmers responsible for our weekly bounty, and see the fields where everything is grown. Living in Iowa, agriculture is a big part of community life, and it is typically a common interest and knowledge base for many people. However, growing up in the suburbs, I never had any real exposure to farms. So, not only was it wonderful to tour the farm and hear from the folks responsible for its operation, but I learned a great deal about their farming practices and procedures.
By in large, we live a vegetarian lifestyle, although we do fold chicken and fish into our diet when we can. I may not be ready to commit to being a “No Meat Athlete” but the lifestyle principles that surround it ring true regardless. There is no question that my running has improved as my diet has improved. The added bonus of cutting out so much processed sugar from my diet is that many of the foods, especially fresh vegetables, taste incredibly sweet! I certainly never would have thought I’d be describing carrots and red peppers as healthy candy!