The Discouraged Runner’s Guide to Boundless Consistency

This post is written by Doug Hay, co-host of NMA Radio and author of Rock Creek Runner.

“Self-discipline doesn’t actually exist.”

That’s what one of my blogging mentors (yes, that’s a thing) Jon Morrow said to me at a recent conference.

It’s a jarring statement considering we live in a world that talks about having or losing self-discipline all the time.

But after he finished the conversation, it all made sense. Jon’s point was this:

No one is born with self-discipline. Successful business people, professional runners, the President, they don’t have some self-discipline gene that the rest of us lack. And as we know, will-power is a finite commodity.

On one hand this is bad news. It means we can no longer rely on the “no self-discipline” excuse when it comes to running. Or doing or not doing anything else in life, for that matter.

But on the other hand, it’s great news.

Because it makes it possible for us to change. It means our failures as runners, our inconsistencies and lack of routine are only temporary. That we too can become the highly energized running routine superstars we’ve always wanted to be.

Consistent runners have fewer injuries, a stronger base, and greater long-term running success.

So if self-discipline isn’t a trait we either have or don’t, and a consistent routine is something we all want, what sets a successful runner apart from her discouraged counterpart?

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Small Steps or Massive Action? The Best Way to Make A Change


Have conventional habit change methods been wrong this whole time?

A few weeks ago I wrote about a major mistake I see person after person make as they start a new habit. They either go all in, dive head first into massive change, and burn out just as reality starts to set in.

Or they take the small steps approach. They follow the slow, arduous process of tiny steps. And with no major breakthroughs or results, the motivation simply disappears.

My approach is different … I think you can do both. Instead of choosing either massive action or small steps, you can bridge the gap between the two, and gain both immediate results and the structure to make it stick.

In today’s episode we discuss that philosophy, how it’s the only process that has worked for me, and the steps you should take for lasting habit change.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Should you go all in on a big habit at the risk of burnout?
  • Starting a habit while preserving your will-power
  • Why end dates are important for new habits
  • Building walls that guarantee success
  • Our problem with patience

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A Look at No Meat Athlete — Oklahoma City


No Meat Athlete OKC, in front of the Flaming Lips’ Museum

If our first two running group successes, Miami and Virginia Beach, have been surprises, our third is a complete shocker. Oklahoma City … that’s beef country, isn’t it?

But continuing on the theme of our other successful groups, the lack of vegan options and activities nearby makes for strong, tight bonds among NMA OKC’s members.

In fact, the first time I met some of them wasn’t in Oklahoma City but at the Marshall Healthfest in Texas, to which three members (Gina, Jon, and Kaitlyn) had driven together — for six hours each way.

The point was driven home when I visited the group in Oklahoma earlier this year and several members told me things like, “Before this group, I had never met another vegan in person.” Or, “I hang out with my NMA friends more than I do my other friends now.”

Pretty crazy! Let’s see what makes NMA Oklahoma City work.


Strong Leadership, Committed Members

Several of our other running group leaders have been frustrated by the difficulty of getting more than a few members to show up for runs when they see other groups getting 20 to 30 people for their biggest events. Here’s the thing, though: OKC doesn’t get huge numbers either, but makes it work nonetheless.

So how do they do it?

Gina Stone, the leader of the OKC group, says:

I had no idea what to expect when I scheduled the first run in October. Honestly, I was fully prepared to run by myself that first day. As it turned out, five people and one puppy showed up!

We’ve continued to meet every Sunday since then. Although we have about 137 members in the Facebook group, participation for our runs is small, ranging from about one to ten runners each week. But the bond we have with one another and the commitment of our regulars is strong.

It was so easy for us to connect each Sunday because we were just thrilled to finally have a conversation that didn’t involve us defending our protein intake. We have an amazing group of people who probably would not have ever come together had it not been for the NMA running group.

While the turnout varies each week, a few members form a rock-solid core that’s consistently showing up for runs and other group events. Another group of more casual members rotates in and out.

And it seems like it’s been that way since the beginning:

Even though I’m the one that creates the event on Facebook and “shouts” directions as we meander through downtown each week, this group would not be what it is without the initial enthusiasm, support, and participation from Kris, Jonathan, Nelly, and Emily. As the group grows, we continue to acquire new, committed “regulars” who add layer upon layer of awesomeness to the runs and the veg scene in our city.

It’s the people that make this group rock, no doubt. There is no better feeling than blazing through the odious Oklahoma weather every week with a mighty tribe of paradigm-busting, compassionate, inspiring athletes.


Like Clockwork

Every week I scan through the photos that our running groups post in their Facebook groups, and early on, OKC stood out. It wasn’t that they had huge numbers, just that every single week, a few people turned out. One low-turnout run didn’t mean the end of the group; they’d just have fun and show up again the next week.

Same time. Same place. Every week. In Gina’s words:

Our group is consistent, welcoming, diverse, and reliable. We meet at the same time, relatively same spot, run the same course, and encourage all levels of ability and plant-based eating to join us. In a place like Oklahoma, it is easy to be a vegan freak, but it’s even easier to latch on to those individuals who share your unique beliefs and lifestyle.

What Makes It Work

In a nutshell, it’s:

  • Consistency. Even though the turnout has never been huge, the group can count on a run every week. Same time, same place.
  • Friendships. Some members also go to other running groups together, and the Facebook page really took off with lively conversation, including an ongoing argument about the merits of grapefruit.
  • The common bond in a place where vegans are few.
  • A few members who are really committed, forming a very strong core.

I had no idea what a blast I’d have visiting this group in Oklahoma City. I’ve harped on the closeness of the friendships a lot here already, but it took actually hanging out with them for a weekend to fully understand how powerful a factor this is.

The day I arrived, we had delicious almond milk cappuccino at Elemental Coffee, then pizza and beers while we waited out a tornado warning. The next day it was hot yoga and a visit to Mim’s Bakery, a vegan food truck run by Emily, a member of the group. And of course, the obligatory stop at the Flaming Lips’ museum for the official photo during our run, before enjoying one more meal out at one of just a few vegan-friendly spots in town.

As unlikely as it might seem in the heart of beef country, this group made being a vegan in OKC for a weekend a blast. Limited in options, sure, but amazing people to share the journey with — people who “get” you and want to see and be a part of real change for their city.

If any one factor is the reason for their success, that’s it.

A Few More Photos of NMA OKC









Haven’t run with your city’s NMA group yet? Check out our full listing and get on it! And if it doesn’t exist in your city yet, why not be the one to start it?



What to Eat Before a Race


Most of us have a pre-race ritual: we wake up at a certain time, put on a certain outfit, do just the right amount of warming up.

But what about eating that final pre-race meal?

What to eat before a race is one of the toughest questions new runners struggle to answer. Eat too little and you’re low on energy and hungry late in the race. Eat too much and you feel bloated and heavy.

The balance between energy-packed and easy on the stomach is a delicate one to find, even for seasoned runners.

In today’s episode, we discuss what to eat the morning of a long run or race, and why solid foods might not be the best option. We also share our own routines … which happen to be remarkably different.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Eating for energy vs. eating for comfort
  • Does “healthy” matter on race day?
  • The optimal time for your pre-race meal
  • Why I drink more than I eat before a race
  • How to discover which foods work best for you

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If You Want to Stay on the Path, Build a Wall Around It

One day last week, I planned to run fairly early the next morning, and I set my alarm when I went to bed.

But a loud thunderstorm and hard rain woke me up that night, and I couldn’t get back to sleep for several hours.

When I finally did fall asleep again, it seemed like only a matter of minutes until my alarm went off, telling me it was time to get up and run.

I really didn’t feel like running. Not only was I tired from lack of sleep, but all the rain meant the trail would be muddy. On top of that, it was a dreary sort of morning, a far cry from the kind that inspires you to jump out of bed and get outside.

There was every reason for me not to run, and in situations like this, “later” offers an easy way out that I usually take. Sometimes later actually happens; often it doesn’t.

But on this particular morning, to hit snooze and skip the run didn’t even cross my mind. It wasn’t an option.

Despite feeling terrible, I dutifully got out of bed, put my shoes and shorts on, and ran.

Why was it so simple this time? Why not the back-and-forth conversation in my head that ultimately ends in procrastination? Where did this warrior-like discipline come from?

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Running on Vacation – is it worth it?

Right as this episode goes live, I’ll be landing in Rome, Italy, where my wife Erin and I are taking part in a vegan tour. With red wine, fresh vegetables, and beautiful countryside, it’s guaranteed to be a blast.

But this week also marks Week 2 of my official marathon training plan. So it begs the question:

Should I be running while on vacation?

If you’re a regular listener to the podcast, it should come as no surprise that NMA Radio co-host Doug and I approach this answer differently. He loves running, and would do it all the time … including on vacation.

I, on the other hand, don’t. And I prefer my vacations free of stresses like a running routine.

In today’s episode, Doug and I debate our different point of views, and discuss the pros and cons of keeping up a vacation running routine. Doug also shares his tips for planning a running trip … the vacation he looks forward to most each summer.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The affects of inconsistency on your running routine
  • Tips for running in a new city
  • Why a mental break from running may help your training
  • Can you take an extended break during a training plan?
  • How to plan an epic running vacation

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12 Cheap, Healthy Meals that Taste Way Better Than They Should

It’s frustrating to think about how much cheaper it is to eat junk food than it is to eat healthily, but don’t lower your standards for how you eat just yet.

Earlier this week I published a post about the best value health foods you can buy, a ranking of the nutrient-dense foods that give you the most nutritional bang for your buck.

Continuing on that theme, today we’re talking about cheap, healthy meals.

For those times when I’m in a hurry, I keep a list of meals that are fast and healthy, so that I can run into a store on the way home, grab something, and have a meal on the table in just a few minutes.

But when I was looking at that list recently, I noticed that most of these meals were also cheap. Cheap, healthy, and quick … not a bad list of qualities for a meal.

The twelve meals in this post aren’t exactly that list — a few of them take too long to be on my “in a pinch” list. But one thing they all are is cheap, coming in at just a few dollars per serving.

So here goes. My favorite cheap, healthy meals … and I hope you’ll use this list to start compiling your own, so that you’re never again tempted to go to the dark side just to save a few bucks.

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The Non-Running-Geek’s Guide to Running Form

The marathon.. speed

As young children, we were all runners: chasing friends on the playground, screaming through sprinklers, and sprinting down the first base line in tee-ball.

And we ran with pretty darn good form, too — without having to think about it.

Does this mean that we don’t need to worry about form now?

Of course not … but it doesn’t mean we need to obsess over it, either. Instead, the basics of running form can be understood with just a few simple keys: keys that help us, as adults, to run like we did when we were kids.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The single most important ingredient of proper running form
  • What minimalism can teach you about form
  • Your optimal running cadence, and how to get there
  • Why form adjustments will slow your pace
  • Does shoe choice affect your stride?

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