Guest post by Tina Muir

If someone says to you “elite runner” what do you think of?

Probably someone who is chiseled to perfection, who lives their life around running, and is, well, very fast.

Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately), I do not fall into that category.

Sure, some elites do match that description very well, and they are able to be incredibly successful, reaching the podium in the Olympics, becoming a household name, having the ULTIMATE body.

But is it bad that I do not want that to be what describes me?

My name is Tina Muir, and I am a wife, daughter, friend, and Community Manager for Runners Connect. Oh, and I am a professional runner.

Yes, I definitely take my running seriously, and yes, running often does take priority in my life. It kind of has to if you want to reach the top level of running, but that being said, my life is probably not as different to yours as you think.

I thought today I could share some things with you that elites do, that may surprise you, and may change the way you feel about yourself.

Maybe they will help you get better as a runner, maybe you will feel better in your day to to day life, and maybe they will help you grow as a person. That third one would make me the happiest.

Today, I would like to dispel a few myths.

Let’s start with nutrition.

Most people tend to think one of two things about nutrition and elite runners:

Elite runners train so much, they must be able to eat whatever they want

OR

Elite runners must eat so healthy; I could never eat like them. I bet they have about one cookie a year.

I get these all the time, and I LOVE to see the look on faces when I say that both are wrong.

As I cannot see the look on your face, I will just have to imagine it, but let me tell you a little about nutrition for elite runners.

Sure, we do eat healthy most of the time. We do need to consider what food we put into our bodies as food is fuel, and that fuel is critically important to us being able to run our best, especially on race day. You follow a marathon training schedule for a reason, to get you peaked for a big race!

I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, a lot of protein, and one that may come as a surprise, a lot of fat.

My meals are mostly tailored to give me the ultimate recovery, but it does not require as many calories as you think. My body has become so efficient at running, that I burn a lot less than most people.

Bummer.

So then the other part of this is that you would think, okay, then if you have to eat right for training and you cannot eat that much more than the rest of us, then surely there is no room for bad foods?

You would think, but one thing people often forget, is that we are humans!

Shocker, right?

I have the BIGGEST sweet tooth of anyone you will meet, seriously.

Just go look at what I ate after the London marathon.

I LOVE sweets, and as much as I shouldn’t, I do have some kind of sweet treat (and no I am not talking about strawberries!) each and every day.

Some elites may eat perfectly, but I am not one of them. Life is for living, and I believe I will regret my life if I clean eat 100% of the time, even during competition time.

So what can you take from this?

Try to make most of your meals healthy; eating whole foods, fresh, organic, and grass fed, but do not hold yourself to an impossibly high standard. Cut yourself some slack, and remember that life is for living.

Even the best still enjoy foods that taste good….even if we know they are bad for us.

Another myth that people believe is true about elite runners is that every run is easy. We glide along like beautiful gazelles. We have reached the ultimate level of running, where it just becomes natural?

I wish there was such a thing, but there is not.

Most of the time I feel crappy on my runs. So tired that I spend a lot of time wondering how much I have left. Not only that, but most runs are significantly slower than you might think. I run my recovery runs so easy that I can hold a full conversation with a friend, that I can breathe through my nose the entire time, and look at the scenery.

For me, that is about THREE MINUTES per mile slower than my marathon pace!

Studies have found that running 80% easy leads to a 23% faster time in a race, and that is the philosophy I follow, and it works

So slow your easy runs down, and remember, that every runner, I don’t care how fast they are, will have lots of bad days in their training.

Misery loves company after all

What’s next?

Well, lets start with something obvious; running makes us tired, right?

Sure does, and when you combine it with the stresses of life, we can end the day feeling so exhausted that going up the stairs feels like a long way.

So it may surprise you to know that I not only struggle to fall asleep most nights, but I wake up almost every day at 5am…..by choice.

I do not sleep for 10 hours a night, I am lucky if I get 8 hours, but I have learned to let that go.

We are constantly told how not sleeping enough is KILLING us, let alone the affect it is going to have on performance, but by telling us that, does it help us to sleep better?

If you are like me, that is probably a big, fat no, and actually makes it worse!

Sure, we do need to get to bed early enough to give ourselves the opportunity to get enough sleep, but if you cannot fall asleep right away, remind yourself that it is okay, you will make it through the next day, and when your body is tired enough, it will sleep.

If you try to force yourself to fall asleep at night, and it makes things worse. Try to switch your thinking. What will happen if you do not get enough sleep?

You will feel tired, you will struggle your way through the day, but then you will sleep better that night (if you do not put pressure on that is), but in reality, that’s not really that bad, is it?

By letting go of that control, you are allowing yourself to get better quality sleep, and that will make you feel better.

Finally, my favorite one.

When we are in that tough part of a race, we have lots of nasty, mean thoughts that flow through our mind. We punish ourselves, we beat our confidence down, and wonder why we put ourselves through this.

How do I know this?

Well, because I am going through it too!

During those tough parts of a race, I am considering dropping out, I am wondering why I can’t be a “normal person”, and I am vowing to myself that this is the last race, I am DONE running.

We all have those moments of self doubt, but one thing I have found helpful is to reassure myself in those moments, rather than punishing myself for showing weakness.

Think about what you would tell your daughter, best friend, spouse. You would encourage them right? If they were struggling, you would tell them they are doing great, and they can finish this.

Well, try this with yourself, and see if it helps you.

There are so many other things that I could talk about. I am not as different to you as you think. So next time you are doubting yourself for one reason or another, remember to be kind to yourself. It will do a lot more for you than being mean to yourself will.