Run to eat or eat to run?


By Dana Stetson


It’s been a long time since I have been really injured. I don’t mean minor nagging stuff that can be easily ignored when necessary. I’m talking about a full-scale category 4 injury. This is the kind of injury where when you wake up at 3:00 in the morning on your first step, you are immediately aware of how injured you are.

My latest injury meant zero miles running at first, and very little since then. This sudden lack of physical activity has allowed me to see more clearly how specifically adjusted my lifestyle is to my “normal” level of activity. Part of this adjustment is a high level of eating.

Runners, especially high mileage runners, almost never have to worry about too many calories. Usually, it’s the reverse that’s true. The amount of food that goes down my cake-tube in one day when I am fully training for an ultra is downright embarrassing.

Injured runners, however, have their crapulistic privileges cancelled. (Crapulous: intemperance in eating or drinking.) You must learn to eat like a non-runner.

Several tips which can help you survive the switch are, 1) have a larger number of smaller meals, 2) buy snacks from health food stores. (It’s usually some sort of stuff you wouldn’t eat, anyway). 3) Avoid eating just to fill the time created by not running.

Do something, catch up on overdue chores, start a new hobby, read some books. All of these will help you avoid the pig-out until healed syndrome which makes come-backs much harder than they should be.

All of this thought about food has made me more conscious of two things, 1) that I’m hungry, and 2) it’s made me wonder if I eat a lot because I like to run or do I run a lot because I like to eat. This is, of course, very similar to the classic question, which came first, the chicken or the mcnugget?

I believe the answer to the former question is both; as I truly love to run, especially a long way. To do this requires much energy. There is a ying-yang balance here, finely tuned until the injury disrupts that. You must recreate the equilibrium through adjustments as you progress through your recovery.