I’d hate to jinx myself, but Friday mornings so far this fall have turned into the most perfect mix of exercise and rejuvenation. Exercise because I have a kick-butt Pilates reformer session first thing after getting kids off to school, and rejuvenation because I follow up the 50-minute sweat-fest of a class with a long trail run in the woods. It’s also the one day of my work week when I have the flexibility to get cozy with my computer at my favorite coffee shop, which happens to dish out one of my most favorite post-run meals, especially once cooler weather hits: a heaping bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.
I’ve been treating myself to this breakfast for the past couple of weeks, and it’s been a huge motivator to power through the tough core workout and subsequent challenging run. It also fuels me so that I can stay on task with work—not always easy to do on Fridays, right?—so I can, when I really just put my head down and get crackin’ on looming deadlines, start the weekend with my family as soon as my kids get off the bus mid-afternoon.
If only all my post-run meals were just as healthy and filling. Yep, my name is Heather and I am a relatively slow learner when it comes to smart fueling—specifically, feeding myself well post-run and also sometimes mid-run. Before runs, I will say, I’m pretty good. Up early for the 6:53 a.m. school bus pick-up, I eat with my kids, typically a small bowl of oatmeal, peanut butter and bananas on toast, or yogurt and granola. Coupled with a few sips of coffee and I’m ready for my run a half hour or so later.
But it’s the mid-run and post-run fuel that’s most stumped me through the years. It’s not that I don’t have great ideas and intentions—I’ve talked about this lots with running friends, blogged about the different things I’ve tried, and have discovered loads of new ideas from fellow AMR tribe members—but following through with these…well, it doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should. Too often, particularly after long weekend runs when I really need the fuel, I get caught up taking care of my family instead of making fueling (and sometimes a shower) a top priority. And I wonder why I am sluggish and shaky not long afterward, longing for a nap rather than savoring that good-sore kind of tired feeling because I thanked my hard-working body with hearty and necessary food.
Also, I’ll just say it: I’m not always the best planner when it comes to incorporating fuel throughout my long runs (thank goodness I have running buddies who are a bit more, um, Type A and ensure our running group has plenty of Gu Chomps, sports jelly beans and water at the ready). But, really, I should be more organized by now, given the three marathons and more than half a dozen half-marathons under my belt. I definitely learned the most while training for my first marathon, for which I hired a running coach. She taught me the importance of taking my first fuel around the 45-minute mark, or between miles five and six, of a long run. Planting water/hydration, or planning water fountain stops on the route, also was emphasized to me. Like I said, I’m getting better at this (I’m looking into hand-held water bottles, an idea that I once eschewed but now really want to try). Lisa also instructed me to enjoy an ice-cold can of Coke (not diet, the real, regular sugar deal) after my first 20-miler. Coca-Cola never tasted so good.
As I’ve trained for a half-marathon this October, I’ve been experimenting with different fuel options—and forcing myself to make sure to eat something satisfying and good within that important window of time—45 minutes post-workout--when our bodies are craving healthy carbs and protein. (Check out Sarah’s piece in Runner’s World about post-run nutrition to learn more) In addition, I’ve discovered a few new things that work well for me mid-run. Interestingly enough, what once worked fairly well for me in the past, particularly my first marathon—Hammer Gels and Gu packets—now don’t sit so well with my tummy. Here’s what’s working:
Mid-run: all-natural granola with dried cherries (I like Michigan-based Simply Suzanne Sweet and Savory So Very Cherry Granola). I put a handful in a plastic baggie, which I carry in my running skirt's back or front pocket. Just remember to take any remains in the plastic bag out of your pocket before washing your running clothes. The dryer-cooked bag did have a nice-smelling aroma to it ...
Post-run: egg-white scramble with beans (I especially like red kidney, great white northern, and black beans). Sometimes I’ll mix in chopped chicken breast or chicken sausage if we have leftovers from the night before. And I always, always sprinkle it with Vulcan's Fire Salt from The Spice House in Chicago. Yum.
What's your favorite mid-run and post-run fuel?