Random item from my box of running memorabilia.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Enduring for Life - Part 4: Take nutrition seriously, for life!

For a quick intro to this group of posts, look to the right and click on the first one, then come back to here. OK, I'm a techno-doofus and don't know how to properly design a website, but I can still run like the wind!  (Or at least like a gentle breeze....)

4.  Take nutrition seriously, for life.  I don't think many sports-nutrition experts would disagree with my belief that while race-day fueling is a big factor in an endurance athletic performance, it can't compensate for a poor diet over a lifetime.  I've known of great athletes who seemed to thrive on Coke and fries in their 20s, but several decades later were long gone from the scene--some of them burned out, others overtaken by belly fat, and many brought down by cancer or other lifestyle diseases.  A pervasive reason is that American life--and its omnipresence of fat-, sugar,- and salt-saturated junk food--is heaily influenced by quick-impression advertising and what I call "sprint culture." It's not just "fast food" that has afflicted our country with obesity and heart disease, but an expectation of quick satisfactions in all things.  Fad diets come and go like fashions.  But the best nutrition for humans developed over several million years of our evolution as nomadic hunter-gatherers.  The diets most conducive to high fitness and health are those which most closely replicate what we ate in the wild, for hundreds of millennia--what we now call "natural," or minimally processed, foods.
     When I was 13 years old, in 1954, I decided I wanted to be a long-distance runner, and toward that end I decided to give up all foods containing highly refined sugars, starches, hydrogenated fats such as Crisco or margarine, and chemical additives.  That was also the year Roger Bannister ran the first sub-4 minute mile, and I was galvanized.  I've stuck with that diet ever since, and am now in my 55th consecutive year of long-distance competition.  Along the way, I've won four national age-group championships (at 50k and 50 miles), and I'm still going strong.  This summer I'm planning to run two mountain-trail 50ks, then in November run the JFK 50-Mile--now in the 70-79 age division.  I'm way, way slower than when I was a young man of 50, or a mere kid of 30 or 40, but the important thing is that I'm healthy and full of what JFK liked to call "vigah," and I think a big part of that is lifelong attention to good diet.  Over a week or a month, the effects of good nutrition  may be hardly noticeable, but over the decades they are cumulative, and by the time you reach old age they can make a world of difference.

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