Run Chicken Run: My No-Mornings Schedule, and My No Meat Diet

healthy runner's meal

Run Chicken Run: My No-Mornings Schedule, and My No Meat Diet
| published October 15, 2014

By Sarah Herrin
Thursday Review contributor and running blogger

“Consistency requires discipline. Force yourself out the door.” – Bob & Shelly Lynn Florence Glover

I hate mornings. Since I decided to become a runner, I’ve done a lot of research on how to become a morning person, on the chemicals in the brain, and why some people find it so difficult to get up in the morning. I read about one runner who desperately searched for evening races just so she didn’t have to torture herself. I’ve learned that the one thing that the most successful people in the world have in common is that they get up early.

I’ve really, really tried to talk myself into being that morning person. But when my alarm goes off, instead of my brain saying “wake up,” it says “just five more minutes.” Still, I was determined to become a runner, so my best option was to learn to run in the evenings. I knew this was going to be a challenge since my work schedule was 10am-6pm and I was taking online masters classes that I tried to fit in three times a week. Well, I thought, if I could schedule my classes on three nights, I could still run the other three. (My training plan, the free Couch to 5k app, was set for three sessions a week.)

It was January and I live in the Pacific Northwest which means that it was pretty chilly out after the sun went down, so I signed up for the neighborhood gym next to the rich-people gym. It had no staff, worked on an honor system (I signed up by email and dropping a check in the box by the door), and had no contract or sign-up fee. It was perfect. I did some quick warm-up yoga to get my blood pumping and then forced myself out into the cold. By the time I got around the corner to the gym, I was warmed up and ready for the treadmill. But there was another problem.

When I got off work at six, I was hungry. Not just hungry, but starving. And it was lucky that I lived right across the street because I needed food ASAP. I have a small stomach and a high metabolism, so I can eat a meal until I’m completely stuffed but it’s never much food and I’m absolutely starving pretty much exactly four hours later. Like a Hobbit, I can’t just have breakfast, I need second breakfast. And not just lunch, I need an afternoon snack.

Why couldn’t I just stay hungry, suck it up, and run? Well, for me, hunger plus dehydration is a quick recipe for a migraine. Also, running when hungry is no fun; motivation dwindles quickly, and low energy levels won’t give you your best performance. At first, I tried rushing home to cook, eat, and wait for my meal to digest and then go for a run. But it would be late, pitch black, and—in fact—the running would be a whole lot less likely to happen. So Luna and Odwalla bars became my best friends. There are lots of protein and energy bars to choose from and most of them taste pretty good, too. Before a run, you need mostly carbs; afterwards, the body needs some protein for recovery. Still, the bars served well as a snack to get me on the road and through ‘til dinner. A little planning and making sure I snacked before running (before I left work, if possible) went a long way and helped me get out the door much quicker.

Along with becoming a runner, one of my new year’s resolutions was to try out being a vegetarian. I accomplished this fairly easily except that I still ate bacon some mornings. I know what you are thinking, but hey, it’s really delicious. (I eventually switched to Morningstar’s veggie bacon to eliminate all the fat and grease I was eating and I still have no desire to fry up some pig, but if there happened to be a bacon on my sandwich, I’m pretty sure I would eat it.)

The reason I decided to become a vegetarian was more for health reasons than for moral ones. I think it is fine for people to eat whatever makes them happy. You’re allowed to put into your body whatever you want—it’s your body after all. As a runner, your body is a machine and it benefits you to be mindful about what kind of fuel you’re putting into it. You can definitely be a healthy meat-eater athlete; however, meat and plant proteins process differently in the body. Plant proteins are digested easier, help with weight loss, and thus, make you faster. You may be surprised at how much healthier you feel just by eliminating some meat from your diet. I’m not a nutritionist, so I encourage you to do your own research and check out some of the many runner vegetarian blogs out there if you’re curious. I can say that it hasn’t been a difficult shift for me and I’ve experienced no physical drawbacks.

As always, thanks for reading! It really means a lot to me. I welcome questions at comments over at my blog and would love to hear about your runner’s diet. What do you eat to fuel your run? Show me some hungry chickens!

Related Thursday Review articles:

Run Chicken Run: My Strength Training; Sarah Herrin; Thursday Review: October 11, 2014.

Run Chicken Run: My Kit; Sarah Herrin; Thursday Review; October 5, 2014.