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Is Your Running Life Sustainable?

posted by Chantelle
Is Your Running Life Sustainable?

Do you feel ‘guilt-sick’ if you forget to bring your reusable bags to the grocery store? Do you find it nearly impossible to avoid assessing everything you do in terms of its sustainability?   If you live in an eco-friendly hot spot like I do (SF Bay Area), it is very likely you answered ‘yes’ to these questions.  We are constantly being encouraged to think critically about how our behavior affects our bodies and the planet, but has anyone ever challenged you to assess the sustainability of your running lifestyle?

Can you continue to train like you are now for the next five years? Ten years? How about twenty years?

The sustainability of your running lifestyle is largely dependent on three factors: volume, intensity and genetics.  While genetics are predetermined, volume and intensity are highly dependent on an athlete’s goal or purpose for training. Let’s consider the following case study:

Farah: 45-year-old, Mother of three, Paramedic (40-50 hrs/wk)

Training: 4-5 miles, 4 days/week @ 9 min mile pace

Running goal: relieve stress, manage weight, complete the occasional 5k-road race.

Jessica: 26 year-old, Aspiring Olympian, works part-time

Training: 8-10 miles, 7 days/week, with two speed sessions and frequent elite competition

Running Goal: compete at the next Olympics

Clearly, the 45-year-old woman who runs four miles every morning for the purpose of relieving stress and managing weight, puts vastly different stresses on her body compared to a post-collegiate athlete who averages ten miles a day with the goal qualifying for the Olympics.  So what do these two runners have in common?  They both need to sustain their running lifestyle to achieve their goals.

While Jessica is looking to maintain and increase her running volume and intensity over the next 4-8 years (two Olympics), Farah hopes to use running to relieve stress for the rest of her life.  Interestingly, despite their vast training differences and goals, both Jessica and Farah can benefit from subscribing to the advice below.  While Farah might not have the resources (time, money, energy) to visit four therapists a week and hire a nutritionist to plan her meals, she can; however, benefit from a monthly chiropractic adjustment and an annual consultation with her nutritionist.

Gladys Burrill ran her first marathon in 2004 at the age of 86 and the completed the Honolulu Marathon in 2010 at 92

Tips to Sustaining Your Running Lifestyle

Branch Out to Avoid Burn Out

Make an effort to get to know your local running community or chat ‘training’ with fellow runners on running message boards.  Rely on these people to challenge you, motivate you and hold you accountable.  

Take Care of Your Body and It Will Take Care of You

Find a therapist (physical therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor etc.) you like and can afford to visit on a regular basis.  Make a habit of taking an ice bath or soaking in an Epsom salt bath after strenuous training.

Eat Right

Visit a nutritionist or purchase a nutrition book designed for athletes.  You will likely find some awesome recipes.  Remember to consume protein within thirty minutes of exercise, and have a substantial meal within two hours after your workout.  Make this a priority and you could be running into your nineties!

Set Goals

Running success is objective compared to other sports where subjectivity and politics often determine an athlete’s success.  Once a year, set a time goal and make a plan of attack.  Chasing a goal will have you hopping out of bed before the alarm can sound!


Signing up for a race promotes consistent training and gives you a sense of purpose while running.  The positive energy generated at road races is unlike any other experience and runners often leave with months worth of motivation


Encouraging a friend or family member to take up running can be very refreshing! There’s nothing like witnessing a new runners’ enthusiasm and the huge improvements they make over such a short period of time.

When assessing the sustainability of your running lifestyle it is important to consider: 1) Your goals, and 2) The short-term and long term sacrifices and compromises necessary to achieve your goal.  Jessica might suffer from some arthritis or wonky knees later in life, but I would assume she would consider an Olympic experience worth it.  Likewise, Farah might sacrifice time with her family, but I would assume Farah thinks she is a better mom because running decreases her stress.

Do you expect to be the next Gladys Burrill?  If so, subscribe to the plan above and pray to God you have some stellar genes!

About the Author: Chantelle Wilder is the Senior Editor and Co-Founder of Runners Feed. She also competes for the New Balance Silicon Valley club in the Bay Area of California. When she isn’t running, or editing she can be found enjoying the fruitful wines of nearby Napa Valley while challenging her husband to a game of Bananagrams®.  

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