I have a confession to make: I haven’t been out for a run for about 2 weeks now. Cue gasps of horror – people that know me may find this revelation a little surprising. And I do feel terrible for neglecting my running, but instead I have been enjoying our honeymoon sailing around the Greek Islands and filling my days with swimming and diving (because nobody really wants to run in 41°C heat). I did also sign up for the London Winter Run 2016, so my first race of next year is in the diary and I am so pleased to say that Sahdya has also signed up – it will be her first 10K and we plan to run this race together.
This evening will be my first run since landing back in a rather cold and drizzly England, and I am expecting it to be tough as I will certainly have lost some of my run fitness. I am excited to put my running shoes back on though, and am looking forward to a proper autumn descending next month as this is by far my favourite season for running. There’s nothing quite like putting your running tights on for the first time with the changes of the season and dusting off your neon beanie hat.
And so today seems like the perfect time to start talking about another really important side of running (well, any exercise, really)…the art of fuelling. I have a love-hate relationship with fuelling my body. Sometimes I like to think that I’m invincible and capable of extraordinary things without having to eat as much as regular people. Other times I just hate the size of my thighs and decide to skip my pre-run snack because I think that cutting those calories will at least go some way in reducing their monstrous size (don’t worry, my rational side knows this is ridiculous and if I forgo this snack it significantly impacts on the quality of my workout). And, rather foolishly, a good few years ago I would run as a way of purging as many calories as possible from my already-undernourished body, causing many long-term issues.
These days I can honestly say that, for the most part, I love my food and I have figured out what works best for me in terms of fuelling my medium-length workouts…and that, my friends, is breakfast food. Porridge, specifically. This is of course great news come race day as a bowl of oats 1.5hrs before the start provides me with the energy I need to complete a 10K (with a handful of raisins consumed a few minutes before the start of the race for good measure). Without getting too technical, because I am no scientist, oats have the perfect combination of simple and complex carbs, protein and fats, and are absolutely delicious with limitless flavour combinations.
The above image is my favourite oat bowl and, as a self-confessed creature of habit, is the same breakfast I have had almost every single day this year – even during the summer because it tastes like a treat in a bowl and I couldn’t imagine starting my day any other way. I use three tablespoons of the Waitrose Gluten-Free porridge, followed by a dessert spoon of chia seeds and raw cacao powder, cut up an apple into small chunks (with skin on), add some unsweetened almond milk and heat it up. Once I have piping hot porridge I add a spoonful of coconut oil, et voilà, an absolutely wonderful breakfast which tastes like pudding and is thoroughly healthy. Whilst I have consciously avoided working out exactly how many calories is in that little bowl of heaven, it is certainly enough to fuel a really good workout and I don’t see myself switching to any other flavour combination for the time being.
Of course, with next year looking like my year of endurance events I will have to start to pay a lot more attention to how I fuel my body, both to sustain the levels of training I need to do but also to ensure I integrate post-exercise recovery snacks into my diet (which quite frankly terrifies me). Ideally I need to gain a bit of weight to ensure I’m healthy enough for an open water swim start in a triathlon. The good news is that this lends itself nicely to a thoroughly indulgent Christmas.
What’s your choice of pre-run fuel?