How to Finally Enjoy Running: The Non-Runner’s Ultimate Guide

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Runner or non-runner, whichever you call yourself, I’ve been there. And I think I’ve finally figured out that whole label thing.

When running is fun — when, even when it’s hard, it comes easy — that’s when you feel like a runner.

But most of the time, for most of us, it doesn’t flow like that. It’s a chore, a discipline. A struggle that’s worth it, but a struggle nonetheless. Those times, we don’t feel like runners.

If you’re the former — a runner, all the time — you don’t need this post. Go run because running is fun for you, for its own sake, no other reason necessary. And know that the rest of us envy you, and wish it could be that way for us.

But if you’re not always that runner, today you’re in the right place. I’ve been on both the winning and the losing side of the daily battle to get the miles in. And when it’s working — when it’s actually and truly fun to run (words I never thought I’d say) — here’s what makes it so.

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How I Fell Back in Love with Running

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Bart Yasso, “The Mayor of Running,” reminding us why we love running.

This weekend that I was to become a runner again started off with me feeling like a fraud.

Thursday afternoon, I arrived in Boston. Two hours later, Jason Fitzgerald and I walked into West End Johnnie’s restaurant, where we were to meet the rest of the invited bloggers and some of the Runner’s World staff, the kickoff to our weekend at the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon and Festival.

We each got goodie bags from Runner’s World. In the bags, among other things: an early copy of the July issue of the magazine, which I’d been eagerly awaiting. Fully prepared for disappointment, just in case the article I was to be featured in got cut at the last minute, I flipped to page 37 and found something unexpected.

The article was there. Focusing on what the elites drink while they run. Scott Jurek. Shalane Flanagan. Dean Karnazes. Kara Goucher.

Me. 

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Running, Eating, Thinking: A Vegan Anthology

I’m proud to have contributed to a new book called Running, Eating, Thinking: A Vegan Anthology.

The backstory: Martin Rowe, president of Lantern Books (and a runner and vegan), noticed the ubiquity of vegan runners these days, and asked, why? Suspecting there was something to the phenomenon beyond simply the idea that a plant-based diet is beneficial for performance, he sought to pinpoint that something.

So he asked 15 of us to answer the question, “What does being a vegan runner mean to you?”, and Running, Eating, Thinking is the result. I’m not big on the word delightful, but to me, that’s what this compilation is. A perfect bridge between the ideological and the easier-to-approach health and environmental sides of this lifestyle — presented in a series of digestible, single-sitting essays.

Today I’m sharing an only-slightly edited version of the first draft of my original submission — which, it turns out, was not what they were looking for; they used my What It Means to Be a Runner post instead. This first attempt is a little all-over-the-place, but it was an interesting stretch for me, and I’m glad to have found an opportunity to show it the light of day.

Following the essay is a link to the latest episode of NMA Radio, where editor Martin Rowe was my guest. We had a great conversation about the new anthology and what exactly it is at the intersection of running and veganism that has helped so many people find joy.

Hope you like it. And I hope more than anything that this post, the podcast, and the book inspire you to think about what’s at the core of your own identity — and that somewhere, you’ll write or speak or sing your own version of what it means to be a vegan runner.

What Being a Vegan Runner Means to Me

It takes only one word, really: this lifestyle, to me, is a practice.

I use the word in the way it’s commonly employed in the context of meditation, yoga, philosophy, or even religion — where “practice” means an activity done for its own sake, something that is not at first pleasurable (and in fact is often quite difficult) but that is unquestionably worthwhile for the foundation of character that it builds. Worthwhile, ultimately, because it purifies the soul.

Many runners run for the joy of running. Many vegans, since coming to this diet, have discovered a love for food and cooking they didn’t know existed. But neither of these describes me.

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Dominating Your Day with Jeff Sanders of the 5 AM Miracle

Podcast Radio2I’ve written a lot about accountability and how it can help you achieve big goals.

From signing up for a race before you’re even close to ready, to paying someone 25 bucks every day you don’t write (done them both), I’m a huge believer that accountability is the difference between goals that get achieved and goals that get forgotten.

Jeff Sanders, host of the popular 5 AM Miracle podcast, is my personal accountability partner. Every Friday morning, we get on Skype for half an hour to talk about our plans for the coming week — and whether we made good on our commitments the previous week.

Jeff is into waking up early, productivity, and everything else you’d expect given his podcast name, but he also eats a high-raw vegan diet and is a many-time marathoner. A big part of Jeff’s approach to staying productive and creative is having the energy to do so — which, of course, comes from the diet and lifestyle. And that’s why I’m excited to introduce you to Jeff in this week’s episode of NMA Radio.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The drastic physical and mental changes Jeff noticed after going plant-based
  • What to do when your partner eats differently than you do
  • Why early morning hours can be your most productive
  • How to set productivity habits that stick
  • Motivation and the power of accountability

Click the button below to listen now:

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If you’re a fan of NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

Links from the show:

PS — Good luck to co-host Doug in his first 100-miler, this weekend!

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Being Okay (with Being Just Okay)

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Last week I went on my first long run in months. Long, here, is generous.

It was six miles, a shortened version of a mostly flat (for Asheville) route I ran dozens of times when I was training for my hundred last summer.

Twice I stopped to walk. It was hot, but that’s not much of an excuse.

It was defeating to realize just how far I’ve slid since the hundred last July. It’s like when you go back to the gym for the first time in months or years, and struggle under a bar that’s a fraction of what you used to lift for double-digit reps. Or when you get on the scale after months of avoidance and see a number that quantifies how much you’ve let go with your diet and habits … and just how far you have to go to get back.

But something was different with this six-mile run. There was no guilt, no frustration, no overwhelm at the size of the task of getting back into marathon or ultra shape.

Because I’ve been on the roller coaster enough times now to know that this is how it works. Three different times I’ve started over in the gym, sliding back to 140 pounds after bulking up to almost 160.

More than once in my seven-year quest to get to Boston, I went six months without running — sometimes frustrated, sometimes injured, sometimes both. Once, I was pretty sure my days as a marathoner were over.

And from the time I first signed up for a hundred-miler to the time I actually ran one, I went through a lull in running where running 100 miles seemed a mere fantasy. Or perhaps a monkey I’d have to learn to be okay with carrying around on my back.

This, I realized, is the price of shunning moderation.When your approach to doing big things is to so pour yourself into them that you don’t want to think about them again for months or years, this is how it has to go.

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What Do You Listen to While You Run?

Podcast Radio2Well, it’s that time. The No Meat Athlete Academy has been live for a full week now, and that means that today, the last day of April, is your final chance to lock in the special NMA reader/listener price for as long as you remain a member, before it goes up to the normal rate tomorrow.

Inside you’ll find four hours of seminar content and almost three hours of Q&A content already available with more being added every month, perfect for listening to during runs …

… which segues nicely/awkwardly into the topic of the newest NMA Radio episode: what we listen to while we run.

Both Doug and I big fans of wearing headphones during runs. But unlike a lot of runners, we listen to more than just music. Especially if you’re putting in the long, slow miles that ultrarunning tends to encourage, that time out on the road can be an amazing to opportunity to feed your mind or to “read” those books you just can’t find time for otherwise.

Having heard from many listeners who like to listen to our podcast while they run, we figured a “meta” episode — something to listen to on your run about what to listen to on your run — would be fun.

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The Not-So-Secret Secrets to Succeeding at Anything

A few months ago, Rich Roll wrote a great post called “Why You Should Stop Lifehacking and Invest in the Journey.”

As I read the post, I found myself nodding along, as expected. When I look at the biggest accomplishments of my life so far, it’s clear that shortcuts had little to do with them.

How about you? Look at what you’re most proud of in your life, and you’ll surely find that hacks weren’t the reason you did it.

It’s not that “hacks” — in fitness, diet, business, whatever — aren’t valuable. It’s absolutely worth learning the tricks and the insights that will help you make quantum leaps along the way. Soak up every bit of knowledge you can about what you’re trying to do … and that includes the hacks.

But when a hack works — and not just for a day or a week, but for good — it’s usually because it comes on top of a foundation of fundamentals that you’ve practiced for years.

It’s those fundamentals that the internet hackarazzi ignores.

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How to Fuel Your Workouts, Naturally — with Elite Ultrarunner and Fruitarian Michael Arnstein

One hundred miles. In under 13 hours. That’s seven minutes and 46 seconds per mile, for 100 of them.

My mind is blown every time I think about that. What makes it all the more incredible — or, in Mike Arnstein’s eyes, what made it possible — is that he reached this elite level of ultrarunning with a simple diet of raw fruits and vegetables.

You may know Mike as the Fruitarian. In addition to his spectacular 12:57.45 100-mile time (the 7th fastest in history by an American), his impressive resume includes wins at the Vermont 100 and the Javelina Jundred, a 135-mile Badwater finish and 153-mile Spartathlon finish, and a pair of 2:28 marathons at Boston and NYC.

Today I’m excited to share another interview clip, this one part of a new No Meat Athlete Academy seminar titled “Natural Workout Nutrition” where Mike shares his strategies for fueling before, during, and after his demanding workouts and races with so clean a plant-based diet.

In the clip, you’ll hear about his unorthodox post-race recovery food and an interesting technique for helping to regulate your electrolyte intake during races:

(If you’re reading by email or in an RSS reader, use this link to watch the video.)

The Academy opens on Wednesday, when the full, hour-long interview with Mike will be live and downloadable for members, complete with notes and a next actions worksheet. If you’d like me to send you an email update as soon as it is, sign up here.

In the meantime, check out Mike’s ultrarunning talk from the Woodstock Fruit Festival — his non-profit raw food event in the Adirondacks, which this year is a two-week long festival in August. I’ll be there for first week with my wife and kids, and I’ll also be giving a talk or two and leading a run! I’ve heard it’s a blast and we’re really looking forward to it.

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