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How Lent Can Help Your Running

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Easter season is often kicked off by Lent, the roughly 6 weeks before Easter meant for penance and prayer. Typically a Christian religious observance, most practicing Christians give up something that would be difficult for them to do without. Common items to give up are swearing, chocolate, potato chips, alcohol, carbonated beverages, basically something viewed as a vice or that’s “bad” for you.

More recently people are also opting for the choice to add something “good” into their life or routine during Lent. No matter your religious preference, or lack thereof, there might be a few benefits to the Lenten goal in an effort to refocus your energy on what really matters– specifically related to your running. Equally appealing to your running would be adding in something “good.”  For example, many runners could stand to add a little bit more foam rolling to their routine or to make sure they apply their SPF regularly.

No matter if your choice was to add or take away for Lent, you could really use the time to evaluate if the change you selected could have really positive effects your running.

Ditching Added Sugar Altogether

Anyone with a sweet tooth would probably consider it an Achilles heel. We don’t need sugar. We want it.  Added sugar seems to be in almost everything single thing we eat and giving up added sugar can be a large commitment. To do it properly, it will mean reading labels and knowing what foods contain hidden sugar.

Like other addictive substances, you might experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches and moodiness at first.  Almost immediately, you will be more alert during the day. This will result in appropriate fatigue when bedtime rolls around, meaning no flopping from side to side while trying to fall asleep for an hour. And a restful, complete sleep makes that early morning alarm for your run easier to deal with.

Going Meat Free

With all the food options that have seemed to become readily available, it seems that having a meal or going an entire day without meat can occur without even intending to remove it.  For some though, it is the center of their meal. And while it’s a good source of protein and iron, removing meat from your diet can have positive effects on your body.

The single most interesting thing that happens for runners is the reduction of chronic inflammation in your body. This type of inflammation is most associated with development of diseases and heart related conditions. Overall inflammation reduction can assist nerve and circulatory system health resulting in less pain or achiness from lingering issues.

In conjunction with reduced inflammation, your microbiome will change. This is especially important for those runners that have digestive issues. Basically, after just a few days, your gut will be happier than ever and working like it should. No more running to bathroom multiple times during your run. Your body will be receiving protein from non-meat sources that will be easier for your body to absorb and work with.

Incorporating Juicing

Whether you call it a fad or a good way to get in your greens, juicing does seem to have quite a following. Adding in one juice a day can have phenomenal benefits and won’t break the bank or take away your ability to chew your food. As runners, the fuel and nutrients we use are critical to our success and replenishing them quickly and easily is a win. Since juicing removes the fibrous tissues from fruits and vegetables that the stomach usually needs to breakdown, our body can absorb more nutrients. Those nutrients you consume will also be wider-ranging.

The list of what you’d cut up and add to your salad is based on taste and texture. If you hate beets or radishes but seek their specific health benefits, you can hide one (or three) in your juice by covering it up with your favorite fruit. The ability to customize your juices for the type of workout you are having, or had, will also allow you to feel your most energetic.

Adding in Yoga or Mindful Stretching

For most runners, slowing down is downright painful. We’re conditioned to go fast and then faster! Taking a rest day or adding in a  yoga class or incorporating intentional stretching is not only about being kind to your body but also your mind. Your legs will be the first to thank you. After one class your hamstrings will be refreshingly less tight. You might even notice when you reach or stretch for things you have more range of motion simply from the use and movement of muscle you have long forgotten or ignored. After a few more classes, you might notice the lack of stiffness or achiness that running and not properly foam rolling can leave behind. Yogi’s call it an “openness”.

Moving into regular classes you will begin to get a handle on breathing with your movements. Understanding and gaining knowledge in a slow, concentrated environment of how to control and manage breathing will parlay into breathing through your different types of runs. You may soon see you can master your breath in your tempo, long and speed runs much better than you had before.

Lent will soon be over, but it’s not too late. If you want to try your own version of Lent, the good news is you can start your own 6 week trial whenever you want, simply pick your your start and end date.