Running on Empty

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

By: Nicky Tamberrino, CCR Elite Race Team Member and Podcaster for “Maybe Running Will Help”

I put off working with a nutritionist until it was the last thing I could think of to improve my running. Charm City Run Nutrition Program Coach and Sports Dietitian Sarah Schlichter and I actually exchanged emails months before I decided to move forward. I wasn’t sure, at that time, I could change. I’m pretty stubborn about certain things, and food has always been one of them. My friends and family actually used to call me “Picky Nicky” because of how particular I was about what I would eat growing up.

I’ve come a long way on my own with fueling over the past 10 years! A result of working with and being strongly advised by my Charm City Run Training Coach, Jeff Burger, who introduced me to gel and hydrating during my long run. Neither of which I did before I started running with other runners. That’s right. I would run 20 miles without WATER. I also used to believe that I shouldn’t indulge my body by eating before my run unless it was race day. I’ll explain.

Look. I’ve got issues so I’m not going to pretend to be relatable in terms of how my mind works, but I will tell you what I was thinking even if it’s only for your amusement…

My twisted theory was that I needed to train my body to suffer and work through a deprived state so it would feel it’s best on race day. Basically, I believed that my body would reward me by superseding normal strength only if I gave it what it needed the day I REALLY needed it to work. I didn’t want to “coddle it” before then and have it become complacent.

Sound crazy? Or familiar? Likely the former, but I’m usually surprised to find some people who can actually relate to me.

I corrected some of these seriously dysfunctional behaviors before I started working with Sarah – avoiding embarrassment until confessing them now. But I had/have a long way to go. Sarah says “your body is smart”. It sounds simple and maybe obvious but when you don’t know how to trust your body, reminders like this matter.

And a lot of us have forgotten how to trust our bodies because we’ve become brainwashed by a society that promotes dieting and shames us from eating for pleasure – or even for running. I have a whole podcast episode on it – look it up at “Maybe Running Will Help?”

Anyway! Besides telling me that it’s okay to eat (some of us need that permission!), Sarah educates me on why I have to eat by explaining what my body is going through during training. She offers suggestions on what to eat and how much, and she helps me reframe old narratives that have held me back from addressing problematic fueling in the past.

Oh! And she provides analogies that reinforce her messages. My favorite example of this is how Sarah persuaded me that my “food rules” should not override my hunger cues. She pointed out other ways our bodies signal to us…that we may find easier to trust. “We don’t ignore the urge to go to the bathroom because we’re not “supposed” to go until noon.” – she said.

Whenever I’m hungry and am tempted to look at the clock, I think back to this often overlooked message from my body and know that I can depend on my cravings to tell me when to hit the pantry as easily as I comply with the urge to use the ladies room.

Nutrition may be an area a lot of us avoid because food has become scary…or even kind of annoying. I’ve felt both agitated and anxiously confused by all the conflicting information. For these reasons, I’m not surprised that it’s the last area some of us choose to address in order to improve our running. I am surprised that some of us never consider that our bodies are smart enough to do a lot more than move one foot in front of the other.

Our bodies deserve respect! and to know we care enough to avoid the risks we take by running on empty.


Wednesday, February 2, 2022

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