Babe Ruth did it on hot dogs, Andre Agassi did it on meth, and marathon runners do it on Imodium. Yes, you read that last bit correctly. In fact, the anti-diarrheal ought to start sponsoring marathons. To prevent mid-race sickness, marathoners have been known to pop a few pills before tying their laces, shellacking some lube between their thighs, and crossing the start line. If only those “Don’t Shit Yourself” signs and some willpower were enough to last the whole 26.2.
As extreme as preemptively halting one’s digestive tract might seem, it only makes the pre-run checklist on race day. Routine preparation during training considers all the body parts from head to toe. The requirements include the right sweat-resistant sunscreen; the foam roller for stretching out the IT bands; the band-aids men need to protect their nipples from chaffing. So why, for the love of Nike*, can’t those scary-thin runners seem to feed themselves?
Here’s the misguided answer: Runners are lunatics. They run to the point of exhaustion, or until they’re content to be mistaken from behind for Madonna or Terri Hatcher. (It’s the sinewy arms.) In actuality: If you’re looking for a quick calorie-burning activity, you’ll choose running because it’s efficient. Performed in solitude, virtually wherever and whenever you want, the sport attracts time-crunched, long-time fitness-freaks and dieters alike. Mistaking thinness for health, many individuals overdo it in the name of physical well-being. But the best runners aren’t always twigs like you might think. Hell, I ran behind some chick at the 2012 Chicago Marathon whose shirt read “Imagine how fat my ass would be if I didn’t run marathons?”
Considering the array of health measures we take to protect ourselves on long runs, let’s pledge to start training from the inside out.
Pre-Workout: Know your body. Some people will need more time to digest than others. A sloshing feeling with each stride will hurt your chances of reaching your goal distance. Quick energy in the form of complex carbohydrates will do the trick. And don’t skip on the vitamin C for a caffeine-free jolt. I like to eat a small bowl of quinoa with mandarin oranges, cilantro, green onions, slivered almonds, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Most importantly: hydrate.
Mid-Run: I run wearing a glorified fanny pack. It’s sleeker and smaller than the pleather tourist favorite, or the neon Ultra Music Festival standard, but it’s still a fanny. My “Shadow Pak” by Nathan Sports (www.nathansports.com, $21.99) carries my keys, phone, and food. Plus it comes with a RoadID tag for safety. If you’re exhausted or hungry, pull out a bag of trail mix. Mine typically includes coconut shavings, dried cranberries, pistachios, dark chocolate chunks and dried mango. Not only can you control the ingredients and portion size, but also you’ll avoid the chemicals found in energy gels and bars.
Recovery: Research suggests that consuming simple carbohydrates after exercise can stimulate the regeneration of torn muscle tissue. Ingest sugars and amino acids almost immediately following your workout. In a rush? Choose chocolate milk and a banana full of potassium to diminish cramping. If you’ve budgeted your time, pan cook some chili dusted fish, chicken or tofu in olive oil. The spice will keep you guzzling water to rehydrate. Top your protein of choice with a salsa of tomato, red onion, grilled pineapple, jalapeño, a smidgen of brown sugar, a splash of lime juice, salt and pepper.
Find your personal balance between eating, living, and running well. In moments of doubt, trust your training and your stomach.
*The God of Victory, not the trademarked producer of athletic goods known worldwide. I’m not taking chances with copyright infringement. That shit’s serious.